CLARE’S spectacular All-Ireland U21 championship glory last year has many in the county expecting an immediate upsurge in the fortunes of the senior side.
However, former star and current selector Liam Doyle is keen to preach caution and last night warned that success in the top flight ‘won’t happen overnight’ despite the heroics of last season’s emerging talents.
A team-mate of new manager Ger O’Loughlin on the All-Ireland winning teams of 1995 and 1997 and now a selector (with Danny Chaplin), Doyle points out that there is an appreciation on the part of the players in the current squad that improving results in recent seasons represents a major challenge. The road to redemption started with an impressive win over Down in their NHL Division Two opener at Cusack Park on Sunday.
“Hopefully the good times won’t be too far away, but it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take work but the lads know that. They have been putting in the effort since we started on January 4,” said Doyle.
The fact that a number of players have retired – Niall Gilligan has given up, while Tony Griffin and Tony Carmody are not involved either – is going to make their job more difficult
Doyle agrees: “It’s going to take time. It’s going to take patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Last year’s U21 win was much needed for the county because we hadn’t had success for a few years.
“A few of the players got their chance on Sunday (six were involved) and a few more will get chance as the year progresses. Some people might think that because of the win last year it’s automatically going to happen at senior level, but it doesn’t work that way. The U21 players have to get used to playing senior teams and get used to the pace of the game. It’s another step, another learning curve for them.’’
The team which started in Ennis included seven of the players who lined out in the Munster semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds last June (a game they lost by just two points), but there is the likelihood of some changes for next weekend’s trip to Laois as injuries clear up and the management team examine their options.
Manager O’Loughlin said: “We have 35 on the panel and they will be the 35 we will be using in the League. Most of the lads will get runs and we will be using the competition to see what championship 30 we can get together.
“The thing about the League is that probably has an extra importance for us. We will be trying our utmost to see if we can get back to Division One.’’
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