An annoying statistic caught Martin McMahon’s eye last week. Apparently, Clare were then one of nine counties who had yet to feature in an All-Ireland football quarter-final since the back door was introduced back in 2001.
It was just one more morsel of motivation, as they prepared to face Roscommon in Salthill last Saturday.
“It is great to get there now,” said the defender after the win at Pearse Stadium booked their place in the last eight.
Turns out though that the figure was wrong: The picture painted for McMahon wasn’t quite so bleak.
Clare, at that point, were actually one of 11 counties yet to set foot in the last eight. Tipperary were another, but both Munster sides ensured their membership of the club had elapsed by the time the Round 4A qualifiers were done on Saturday.
Much has been made of the two counties’ individual stories, and rightly so, but it was a red-letter day for Munster football, weaker counties everywhere, and the championship as a whole after too many years of stasis and predictability.
How much further Clare and Tipp can go remains to be seen. Wexford punched through to a semi-final against Tyrone, which they lost only by six points, eight years ago, and Down made the decider in 2010 on the back of a maiden quarter-final, but Limerick and Cavan, the only other breakthroughs since, got just one shot at Croke Park.
Clare will have to turn around a 12-point Munster semi-final reversal to Kerry if they are to continue their journey this summer and they approach the fixture knowing there were positives and negatives to take away from Pearse Stadium last weekend.
“You saw it there: This side is brimming with confidence,” said McMahon.
“We are playing well. We had no notions coming into this. We knew Roscommon were going to be tough and that they played good football and that’s how it turned out.
"They brought it back to three points, but it would have been another thing if they had been dominating the second-half. Their goal came from one of our mistakes and that’s the way we looked at it.
“Everyone was in it together. We were, maybe, shooting from that 40-yard line, where, with the wind, even though it is easier to pop them over, you should still take three or four steps to settle down. We’re happy, though. It’s a great privilege, a great honour.”
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