Heard the one about the team that couldn’t afford to look beyond their first championship game? You did? You think you might have but only Clare have been so short-sighted.
On Sunday, at the fourth time of asking, they claimed a first Munster win since 2013. Chatter about them being All-Ireland dark horses and, aside from Waterford, the team best placed to dethrone Tipperary in the province easily washed over them.
When they had failed on their three previous efforts to win at the first time of asking in summer, all their eggs had to be placed in one basket.
“How long is it since we reached a Munster final,” asked Seadna Morey after Sunday’s game. “We have heard it all that we can’t win that first game in Munster and it has been with us too, we have carried that with us every year.
“We set out every year to win and then we fall at the first hurdle.
“The main thing was we set out at the start of the year with all eyes on Limerick, that was our total focus. We weren’t looking ahead or anything like that. We were just looking at that semi-final and we had to get to a Munster final.”
Nothing for those there in 2013 will ever cheapen what they achieved that season but Podge Collins acknowledges not being able to follow it up with success in Munster has been difficult to swallow.
“The last few years have been disappointing, very demoralising after winning an All-Ireland and not be winning games in Munster. I know how competitive Munster is and I know on any given day any of the five teams could beat each other but it (Sunday’s win) was coming a long time. We needed to get a win and we’re delighted now we got it. Fortunately enough it was in a Munster semi-final and now we’re in a final.”
That they have five weeks to improve on a far-from-perfect victory over Limerick is seen as an advantage by both players. Morey looks back on how they had to re-establish their lead late in the first half as a positive. It was almost as if they had lost sight of the fact this game was their traditional stumbling block only to realise that dread when they went eight points up so early.
“We are going to learn from this game. It was a good thing that we were so far ahead at the start and they came back at us — we had to learn from that and go at it again.
“It was better to happen on this day now than the last 10 minutes of a Munster final, if you look at it that way.
“It was a strange enough game, but we came out on top. That’s the main thing.
“Those two (Shane O’Donnell) goals really got the team going but when Limerick came back at us and got those eight points, I think it was a learning curve for us. We came back again, which shows that we are learning from our mistakes and getting a bit of consistency into it. We didn’t panic or we didn’t crumble. When they got that momentum, we settled and just got one or two points to keep the scoreboard ticking over, which was a good sign and we managed to get to half-time with a five-point advantage.”
What Clare will take most satisfaction from is the return to play of David McInerney, Pat O’Connor, Conor McGrath, and Shane O’Donnell whose injury lay-offs hardly showed in their performances.
“We’re very lucky in the sense that we’d everyone out there apart from Oisín O’Brien who’s working very hard,” said Collins.
“With the exception of him everyone’s fit. That’s the first time all year, we’ve had our first 15 out.
“The way the recovery has gone now, you nearly always have the hurley in your hand. It’s not like the lads are just inside the gym doing their rehab. They’re out at the wall, they’re out on the field doing their bit of pucking. They don’t miss much hurling. Lads like Shane O’Donnell, Conor McGrath, they’re just unbelievably gifted and we just need to get them on the field.”
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