Cleary and Clare football brigade feeding off hurlers' success

it isn’t just the Miltown-Malbay twins who are mining positive energy from the success of the opposite code in Banner country...
Cleary and Clare football brigade feeding off hurlers' success

SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS: Clare's Eoin Cleary. ©INPHO/Evan Treacy

Work meant Eoin Cleary was not able to get himself to Thurles last weekend to support twin brother Conor and the rest of the Clare hurlers, the same as Conor was not present at Croke Park the Saturday previous to see Eoin and his Banner teammates record the county’s first-ever football championship victory at GAA HQ.

But given their level of interaction outside of matchdays, neither Cleary sibling needed to be sat in the Hogan or Kinnane Stand across recent weekends to feed off the other’s championship-winning energy.

Mind you, it isn’t just the Miltown-Malbay twins who are mining positive energy from the success of the opposite code in Banner country.

Turning on his phone at Croke Park after Roscommon had been put away with a late, late burst, Eoin Cleary’s inbox contained a couple of congratulatory messages from members of the Clare hurling panel.

Cleary found himself returning the favour after Brian Lohan’s men produced their own late, late act against Wexford to book a spot in the last four of the hurling championship, with the footballers also hoping to secure semi-final involvement when they return to GAA HQ this Saturday.

Never before has the county reached hurling and football semi-finals in the same summer.

That's hardly surprising, though, given Clare have only twice been involved in the penultimate round of the race for Sam Maguire, that in 1917 and 1992.

“Clare is a proud sporting county. When you see a family member doing very well and the team they are involved with is winning, you do get good energy from that,” replied Eoin when asked about Conor and the hurlers’ fine form this summer.

“Even last weekend in Thurles, similar to ourselves the week before, Clare were in a position where it looked like they weren't going to win, but they came back and showed great resilience to beat Wexford.

“I would be of the belief that the hurlers would have taken something from our performance against Roscommon, and I actually got a few messages from some of the hurlers after that game.

“No doubt that one of the teams in Clare doing well helps the other and gives them good energy, and vice-versa. A lot of the players from the two panels would be quite friendly and socialise with each other. It all helps, definitely.

“There is a great buzz here at the moment, with plenty of flags out around the county. It is brilliant to see and brilliant for young people who aspire to play for Clare seeing both counties reach All-Ireland quarter-finals, and in the case of the hurlers they’re now in the last four.” 

To join them, Colm Collins’ charges will need to find a way past Rory Gallagher’s Derry and the airtight defence he has constructed.

Cleary is one of the survivors from the 2016 panel that contested the county’s first All-Ireland quarter-final and given the chastening experience that was at the hands of Kerry, Clare’s first priority this weekend is to show up.

“For whatever reason, we didn't perform that day and so we would be hoping to give a better account of ourselves this time around. In 2016, it showed that if you don't perform to your optimum against a top-class team, they will punish you. We are well aware the same thing will happen this weekend if we don’t do that.” 

The counties’ Division 2 League meeting at Ennis in late February was level at 0-6 apiece early in the second half, but the visitors assumed control when outscoring their hosts by 2-4 to 0-1 between there and the 54th minute to win with nine to spare.

And given Clare went 24 minutes of the second half against Roscommon without raising a flag of any colour, their susceptibility to third-quarter fade-outs cannot go repeated this Saturday.

“It will be a tough task and we’re aware of what is ahead of us, but we are looking forward to it. There is no other place we'd rather be," continued the 28-year-old forward, who has contributed 0-12 across their three championship outings.

“At the start of the year, we set out our goals and one of those was to be in an All-Ireland quarter-final and hopefully push on after that.” The Clare footballers contending for a last-four spot looked a remote possibility when set against the backdrop of the Banner being one of 10 counties who failed to win a championship game during the two Covid affected seasons.

But despite their winless championship run across 2020 and 21, there was never any sense of the Colm Collins project having stalled, Cleary insisted.

“No, and the reason would be when Colm has been with us, and I remember talking to Kevin Harnett before about this when he said to me, ‘it doesn't get any better the set-up we have and the way Colm deals with players’. You always have that faith in him because he maintains that faith in you.”

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