Colm Collins has no fears Clare’s decision to not participate in the McGrath Cup will come back to haunt them as they begin their Division 3 campaign against Wexford on Sunday.
For the second year running, the Banner opted out of the provincial pre-season competition. Last year was as a result of a form of protest along with Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford against the seeded nature of the Munster senior football championship.
This month, they declined to play as Collins and his group felt a “free January” in 2014 aided their successful promotion drive from Division 4.
Collins has some qualms with the make-up of the McGrath Cup, which he feels can be hit-and-miss. “We kind of felt last year the way it went we were happy with our preparations. We felt if it wasn’t broken don’t fix it and we’d stick to what we did before. There was no malice or argument with anybody about it. There was no issue with the Munster Council and we were delighted that they reversed their decision about the championship.
“In any given year, you may only have one game in it or you could have two meaningless games in it that are no good to you whatsoever. It’s not clearcut. If you were guaranteed really competitive games it would be fantastic but that’s not the case with it. So we decided to do the same again.”
Behind Armagh and Tipperary, Clare are the bookmakers’ third favourites to gain promotion to Division 2. It’s a testament to how far both themselves and Tipperary have progressed having been on the lowest rung of the ladder this time last season.
“There’s a tremendous bunch there,” says Collins. “They’re dedicated and have put in a really good effort. We have players at the scoring end that can make the difference and we’ve good midfielders and good defenders.
“Hopefully, if they perform and keep up their progress we’ll be there or thereabouts. There’s not a whole pile between the teams in Division 3. Everyone will be trying to grind out results. People probably didn’t expect us to perform as well as we did in the Championship last year. We were narrowly beaten by Kerry and Kildare and nobody outside the camp would have expected that. Tipperary had a fantastic run in the qualifiers as well so maybe they’re going on that as well. Tipperary have fine footballers and they’ve nothing to fear and hopefully we’re in the same bracket.”
Collins will be without long term injury victims Enda Coughlan and Eoin Cleary, while his son Podge is touch-and-go with a hamstring strain. Jamie Malone and Cathal McInerney are also concerns. “We’ll cope,” smiled Collins.
He hopes bringing Wexford under new manager David Power to west Clare will be of extra benefit to the home team. “It’s nice that it’s on right in the middle of Clare football territory in Milltown and hopefully that will swing it for us, that we will get good support on the day.
“But Wexford have got some fantastic footballers and David did so well at 28 years of age to win an All-Ireland with Tipperary’s minors. They will be well prepared and we’ll have to be at our best to beat them.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved