Even as Philippe Coutinho injected hope into Liverpool’s chances of reeling in Borussia Dortmund in their Europa League quarter-final second leg at Anfield last week, Clare senior football selector David O’Brien was momentarily distracted.
Although on Merseyside, O’Brien was regularly checking his phone for news of David Tubridy’s appeal against his straight red card, issued in the closing minutes of Clare’s defeat to Kildare on April 3 in Newbridge.
While all around him Anfield rattled out You’ll Never Walk Alone with increasing fervour, O’Brien nearly broke into a chorus of My Lovely Rose of Clare, when he heard that Tubridy’s card, had been rescinded.
“I missed one of the goals texting to see how David got on in his appeal,” the Miltown Malbay publican said.
If tomorrow’s Allianz Division 3 league final is as incident packed as Liverpool’s 5-4 aggregate elimination of their German opponents, O’Brien may have to sit down for a while afterwards.
“I don’t know will the heart hold out for another one of those,” he smiled.
O’Brien isn’t alone in his devotion to Liverpool. Back home in Miltown, key Clare forward Eoin Cleary spent last Thursday pounding the couch with increasing excitement as Dejan Lovren headed Liverpool into the last four.
“Cleary is a fanatic,” the Clare selector confirmed.
While the Miltown and Clare forward will be undoubtedly motivated to bring a national title to the county on Saturday evening, a good performance might bring even more reward. “We might bring him to the next game if he puts over a few points on Saturday,” O’Brien promised.
Seven years ago O’Brien was the Clare ladies football manager when they defeated Tipperary in the All-Ireland intermediate final in Croke Park. He has been involved in a few games there and of course the more the better.
“We’ll take the same result again if we can get it,” he said of the ladies 2009 win. “I also got to go up there with Waterford (statistics team) and the Clare hurlers in the past. I’ve been up there a few times and have had a mixed bag on the results side.
“A lot of the lads played there in 2014 (in the Division 4 final) and the Kilmurry Ibrickane lads have the experience of playing there in the All-Ireland club final in 2010.
“So for a team coming from Division 3, we probably have played there more times than you would have expected. Gary Brennan also has good memories of playing for Ireland last year. It’s not as much playing there as not being overawed by things that happen there. It’s very hard to hear even when the place isn’t full. Players will have noticed that so it will be nothing new to them this time.”
With an eye on Saturday in Dublin, Clare are aiming to produce a 70-minute performance. They were excellent for 55 minutes in their league game against Kildare but conceded seven successive points in the closing minutes. Their preparation though has been somewhat restricted.
“We’d be hopeful that if we learn from the mistakes we made the last day and improve on what we did right, that we have a great chance of pulling off a win in Croke Park. Since the Kildare match we haven’t got to do as much as we’d like to have done. Three club fixtures will have taken place between the Kildare games, which has impacted a lot. Last Wednesday week was our first session together in a week and a half. It’s not ideal but the club fixtures have to be played.”
O’Brien acknowledges that the Kildare game in Newbridge was the most taxing of their spring campaign. “For 60 minutes we left absolutely nothing in the tank. Players just gave it absolutely everything. It was a step up from the games we’ve played all year. Kildare had more in the tank in the last 10 minutes, probably based on the fact that they were a Division One team a couple of years ago. They were more used to playing games of that intensity than we were. It wasn’t anything to do with fitness or ability. It was just that they have been put to that test more often than we have and that’s exactly why we want to get up to Division 2.”
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