Clare football manager Colm Collins is adamant he and his management team must evolve at the rate they expect from their players.
Collins begins his fourth season at the helm with a trip to Derry in Celtic Park on Sunday. It’ll be a huge journey by road, but also a massive leap in terms of football given the Banner’s promotion to Division Two last season.
“We’re asking players to improve so it’s awfully important that we try and improve ourselves. As long as we’re improving, it’s good and we’ve all to be looking at ways to get an edge.
"I’d hope that everybody involved is trying to do that. You could see quite clearly the difference between Division 4 and 3 in the way other teams prepared and the amount of information they had on you.
“Again it’s the same story here in Division 2. But it’s great. That’s what we’ve been wanting to do,” Collins said.
The Clare management team have scouted opponents in pre-season tournament games. That information could be vital in the weeks ahead.
“We’ve got a good network of people looking at these games. We’ve gone to see a good few ourselves and at this point, I think we’ve almost all of them seen already. From a backroom point of view, we’ve got to up the ante as well.
"When you started in Division 4, there would be games you would identify as ones you’re going to win. But all you can worry about is yourself and make sure that we’re playing proper football and doing the right thing. Then results take care of themselves. There’s plenty ability in that dressing room and there is no fear of them.”
Clare are likely to be without midfielder Cathal O’Connor, who recently had an appendix operation, while full-back Kevin Harnett is receiving treatment for a shoulder injury. On Saturday evening four Clare football panellists, Gary Brennan, Shane Brennan, David Egan and Pearse Lillis will be part of the Ballyea effort to reach the All-Ireland Club hurling final, before they travel to Derry for the league tie.
Collins knows that while Sunday’s task is not an impossible one, Derry will be very keen to win their first home game.
“With the football population that’s in Derry, they’re always going to be a very good side. I played with some of them in New York. There’s a massive football culture up there and whatever team goes on the pitch, they’re going to be good. All we can worry about is getting our own house in order,” he reiterated.
Meanwhile with Clare travelling more than 200 miles this weekend, one would think Derry have a significant advantage, given they will host the fixture. Their manager Damian Barton doesn’t fully concur. Ideally he would prefer if Derry home games were played in Dungiven.
“The good thing for us is it’s at home, which we have to use although it’s in Derry city, which isn’t really home. The boys are more at home at Owenbeg in Dungiven, which is our centre of excellence.
"We train there and the facilities lend themselves to better preparation. The gym is upstairs for warming up. In Celtic Park, you warm up on the pitch. Going to Celtic Park, the mindset of a lot of the guys is that it’s like an away game.”
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