Clare manager Colm Collins is hopeful his squad will be bolstered by the returning Kevin Harnett and Sean Collins for Sunday’s trip to Killarney.
Full-back Harnett and half-forward Sean Collins, a son of the manager, were integral members of Clare’s championship team last summer, but have seen very little game-time this year because of shoulder and hamstring injuries respectively.
Harnett has not featured for Clare since last July’s qualifier defeat to Mayo, while Collins has been plagued by a hamstring injury for much of 2018; he missed their opening four league games and the Munster quarter-final victory over Limerick.
“We came out of the Limerick game injury-free. Kevin Harnett and Sean Collins were both out of that game because of injury. But hopefully, they will be available for Killarney,” said Colm Collins.
This is the fifth championship meeting between the counties since Collins assumed the reins ahead of the 2014 season, the four points which separated them that June as close as the Banner have come.
Collins told the Irish Examiner last December their challenge for 2018 “is to see can we take out one of these top teams”. Sunday represents a first shot at realising this goal.
Clare created four goal opportunities when overcoming Limerick last time out and they’ll be looking to similarly exploit Kerry’s defence. The Kingdom conceded more goals — 10 — than any other Division 1 team in the league, with selector Mikey Sheehy believing criticism their rearguard came in for was justified.
Kerry lost their opening two league games at home, conceding three goals to Donegal and while Galway managed only one, several more went a begging. “It was just that we were naive enough, management too. We didn’t play with a sweeper [against Donegal first time out] and we possibly should have. They did pick holes, particularly through the middle,” said Sheehy.
“They flood the middle third and slowly work up. We were over and back, we were too slow on the ball going forward.
“You can get your defensive system right, eventually. You can get fellas back and get them to buy into it. Against Galway, it was very frustrating watching. We were like basketballers, over and back, instead of lads punching holes through the line and taking them on like Damien Comer did.”
Their league campaign, according to Sheehy, was very much a “mixed bag”.
“The positives to take out of it were that we used 37 players and we held on to our status. We made hard work if it, we were inconsistent. We played very well against Mayo above in Castlebar, played well enough in patches against Donegal, but played poorly in Croke Park, collapsed in the second half, played poorly against Tyrone, and poorly against Galway in Tralee.”
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