Clare uncovered

Photo: Irish Mirror/Cathal Noonan

This is the seventeenth season since the qualifiers were introduced and so the number of counties we haven’t yet met in the championship has got whittled down a good bit in the years since 2001. Clare are one of the counties we still have to cross off our list but that’s a job we’ll get to do after we lock horns with them at Cusack Park in Ennis this coming Saturday (throw-in 5pm).

The obvious footballing link between the counties – one you’d expect to see getting wheeled out over the next few days – is, of course, John Maughan. Before he ever came to within a bouncing ball of leading us to All-Ireland glory in 1996, John cut his managerial teeth in the Banner County, in the process guiding them to an historic Munster championship title victory in 1992. It was a win – their footballers’ first provincial crown since 1917 and only their second ever – that some would claim goaded the county’s hurlers into decisive, All-Ireland winning action soon after. It was also one that coined that oft-repeated Marty Morrissey catchphrase.

But let’s leave Marty to his own devices. The Clare team we’re set to face this coming Saturday evening are a side managed by Colm Collins – father of Podge, though he’ll be with the hurlers this coming weekend – who have been on an upward curve for the last few years. In that time they’ve risen from Division Four to Division Two in the League and last year they made it as far as the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

They had the misfortune to end up playing Kerry twice in the championship last summer. After getting past Limerick by 0-16 to 0-13 in the Munster quarter-final, they shipped a bit of a whipping against Kerry in the semis, going under by 2-23 to 0-17.  The qualifiers proved more fertile territory for them, though, as they beat Laois by a point in Round 2, then had seven points to spare over Sligo at Markievicz Park in Round 3 before thumping the poor demoralised Rossies by 2-12 to 1-9 at Pearse Stadium in Round 4. Groundhog Day with the Kingdom followed, however, in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Clare went under by eleven points in that one, on a scoreline of 2-16 to 0-11.

Having won the NFL Division Three title last year, the Bannermen did well this spring to hold onto their place in the second tier. They did so, though, only on points difference, as they ended up the campaign on the same number of League points (five) as Down and Derry, with the latter getting relegated on that metric.

Here’s how Clare’s Division Two campaign played out this year. Round 1 – drew away with Derry, 0-11 to 1-8. Round 2 – beat Down at home, 2-11 to 0-11. Round 3 – lost away to Galway, 3-13 to 0-11. Round 4 – beat Cork at home, 2-11 to 0-9. Round 5 – lost away to Fermanagh, 0-18 to 1-10. Round 6 – lost away to Kildare, 0-18 to 1-14. Round 7 – lost at home to Meath, 3-19 to 1-13.

Main takeaways from that lot? An ability to win at home (some of the time), coupled with a tendency to concede quite a fair few scores.

Championship this year has, so far, been pretty much a carbon copy of twelve months ago for the Banner County. Win over Limerick? Check (this time by the minimum margin, 1-13 to 1-12). Defeat to Kerry? Check (this time the margin was just six points, 1-18 to 1-12). Round 2 qualifier win over Laois? Check (this time, winning by a comfortable ten points, 2-18 to 0-14). Round 3 opposition from Connacht? Check …

The rest of this particular book, however, remains to be written. They’ll come into Saturday’s fixture with their tails up and will figure that they’ve nothing to fear playing a team that, in their minds, is shorn of confidence and could so easily have been dumped out last weekend. We’ll approach Cusack Park believing that we’ve enough quality and experience in our ranks to do the job and reckoning too after Saturday that we have within us the capability to plot our way out of a tight corner.

The bookies are more comfortable with our narrative. Paddy Power have priced us at 1/4 to win on Saturday, with the handicap set at five points.  I know, I know – they had us at 1/5 to win the last day – in normal time – and that wasn’t exactly on the money was it?

Right, then: cards on the table once more. What do you reckon to our chances this coming weekend?

Will we beat the Banner?

  • Yes (85%, 691 Votes)
  • No (15%, 124 Votes)

Total Voters: 815

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51 thoughts on “Clare uncovered

  1. Deadly little piece to whet the appetite. How do you think it will pan out Willie Joe?

  2. Jaysus. Mayonaze will be there with Big Bertha on the town end terrace.I thought she was retired after last October. Good man yourself. Fly her high. She is worth a pint to us on the owl scoreboard. Great work from the Mayo Independent Supporters Club too.

  3. I watched Mayo play Clare years ago in miltown Malbay, they beat us from what I remember and we had a good enough side out. 2000?

    This will be another really good workout for Mayo and a game they really should win, how would kerry or Dublin do if they were playing Clare next Saturday? We should be aiming to put it away as early as possible by dint of goals, and not counting on points like we were last Saturday.
    A very interesting thing I seen Jason Doherty do as he was heading for goal was to raise his hand up very high with the ball and cover a lot of ground in the process with just the one bounce, the only other I’ve seen do it is Alan Brogan, it’s a very near trick. Nice to see it being used by one of our lads. And both goals for Mayo were top drawer quality, a bit more composure this weekend will see Mayo home by a few scores.

  4. After the under 21 final in 2006 we were given tea and biscuits by a kind lady in one of the housing estates where we parked, fierce decent ppl in the Banner County, but Sat eve it’s them or us so the battle lines are drawn, bring the colour and bring the roar, the lift it gives the lads is palin to see. We should be improved but this is a tight pitch we won’t have the wide spaces so it be end to end and hopefully we’ll shore up the hole in front of goal, maigheo

  5. Too early yet, Pullhard, to be coming to any firm thoughts about how Saturday will go. Nerves are fine so far, MaigheoGalinGaillimh, but I doubt the same will be true come 5pm on Saturday!

  6. Clarke
    Harrison Vaughan Barrett
    Coen Boyle Higgins
    SOS Parsons
    McLoughlin AOS Nally
    Loftus Cillian Doherty

  7. I know we do paddy. Seeing him going off on Saturday I can’t see him being ok for Ennis.

  8. That is some piece WJ …yer some star!
    A little bit more off the cuff football is an indication to me that we re moving along nicely and as they say how best to swallow an elephant is …tail first! As the heat rises it seems this team shows its real worth…so let’s throw a few more sods on the fire Mayo and clinch those goals and points that are rattling around in the box and ready to fall out all over the place. Yup!

  9. Fantastic stuff, Willie Joe… Where would we be only for this amazing blog… You when you think about it, every Mayo fan, and fan’s of other counties get to have their say.. in (and this is a important point) a respectful manner, even if it’s viewed by and large with green and red glasses, which I never take off myself… Long may it continue, and hopefully some other counties might take a leaf from the Willie Joe book…

  10. Can the shooting be that bad again. I don’t think so. We get to start the next game where we left off in the last one I think they will improve.
    However the ability to turn opposition over in tackles seems to all but be gone from Mayo we were so good at it in 2013 ie against Galway and Donegal now it never happens. Why is that?.

  11. Teams are a lot smarter at not getting caught in contact Pat. In particular coming out of defence is so practiced these days. It’s harder to trap guys into a strong tackle.

  12. Yes I noticed Jason’s hopping technique and Alan Brogan comparison. Took his goal very well.
    On the turnover technique, we got it back later in 2016 championship so I don’t think the art is gone. Tom Parsons is a great man for robbing opposition just that not all players as good at it especially new lads to the panel. Alan Dillon for a not big guy is very good at it especially when himself and Cillian are ganging up on an opposition player. Donie did a great one on Colm McFadden in league 2016 but we haven’t hardly seen it this year and it’s a sizeable part of Mayo’s armoury. Our 2013/4 demolition of teams in Connaught was partly based on turnovers and we would then often be ruthlessness and burst the middle for a goal. Would like to see it return.

  13. Thanks for that WJ. WILLIE CLANCY tradfest on in Milltown Malbay this week – another reason to be in this wonderful county.

    Watched Derry game back last night. The shooting we know about, but our half back line was shocking. Ryan Bell – Paddy Durcan’s man – caused untold damage and could have done more if stamina wasn’t an issue. Derry were wasteful too and should have had a lot more than 12 on the board at 70 minutes. BTW you are right WJ, stonewall square ball., Lynch was parked in there.

    One massive benefit though was the extra time and the fact that most of the 26 got a run out. This must do wonders for morale; when for example did Caolan Crowe last get game time? Feb 2016 by my reckoning.

  14. when will we know the extent of Paddy Durcans suspension & lees injury
    both will be a big loss on saturday

  15. Team for me this Saturday
    Clarke
    Harry, Caff, Barrett
    Keegan, Boyle, Higgins
    Vaughan, Parsons
    McL, AOS, DO’C
    Loftus, Andy, CO’C

    No reasons not to start SOS apart from the fact that their is an obsession to have 8 backs on the field and putting Vaughan in midfield might satisfy this and unleash SOS after 50 minutes. Kevin McL is without question our best sweeper from wing forward and he’s also deadly at ghosting into very good scoring positions (also what a pass to Andy for an early point last week, shades of Ciaran Mac). We need to back Loftus and start him from the off, Andy probably needs to start as the Clare full back is one of their big strengths and he put Kingston in his pocket last week, he wont do that to Andy as he is simply too cute but he might hold Cillian if he was forced to hold the inside line. Also great chance to see Higgins, a player who excels at coming off the shoulder at speed, to play in a more advanced position. No reason to exclude Coen and it is likely that he will start if Keegan is nursing an injury but I think that the role of wing forward dropping back is not for Coen as we have at least 2 lads better able to do that job. His ability as a sticky defender is his greatest asset.

  16. Interesting team richardmgd.
    However, I think that there is a toss up between Higgins and Barrett for the No 4 jersey. I expect Drake or Coen to get the No 7 shirt. I think that Boland will start with either Loftus or Kevin McLoughlin making way. I would love to see Loftus start as he is an out and out scoring forward. However, Kevin Mc does a huge amount of work picking up loose ball so SR might favour him. As well, Stephen Coen might start instead of Diarmaid O’Connor but swap as the game progresses.

    I think the team named will be:
    Clarke
    Harry, Caff, Higgins
    Keegan, Boyle, Drake
    Donie, Parsons
    Fergal, AOS, Coen
    McL, Andy, CO’C

    How they will actually start is much less easy to predict, but in the event that this 15 starts, I would see subs as follows:
    Barrett for Boyle
    Nally for either Keegan or Drake
    Sheamie O’Shea for Donie
    Diarmaid for Stephen or Fergal
    Jason Doc for Kevin Mc
    Conor Loftus for Andy

    In any case, I’m quite happy that SR is making these decisions and not me, as I’m sure he can do a much better job of it!

  17. Good question, Paul – one that deserves an answer. According to my reckoning it’ll leave only six counties we haven’t played – Antrim, Monaghan (whom you’d have to think we’ll encounter at some point soon), Waterford, Wicklow, Carlow and Kilkenny (though only if they leave down their hurls for a bit).

  18. I was also very impressed with Jason Dohertys composure after collecting the ball to score his goal. The little Alan Brogan trick to get an extra step out of the bounce solo and assess your options. Jason is a very good goalscorer. He usually tucks away opportunities placing the ball. He doesn’t blast it.

  19. DOC and Higgins at WB and 5 proper forwards + KMCL. Same attitude as extra time the last day plus the supporters behind them and we should be ok. Support was immense in castlebar but these players deserve that as payback for their tremendous efforts over the last 6 years.Clare will give us plenty of it but if the minds are right we’ll be ok. Last 2 competitive games I think from memory were a draw in Ennis and defeat in Kilmihil but that was a good while ago. Happier memories from last year so let’s stay positive.

  20. I should have included in the post a reference to our most recent competitive match against Clare but, although I researched it, I forgot to mention it. The match in question also took place at Cusack Park, in a League Division 1B match on 17th February 2002 and we won it by 2-19 to 1-6. The same again the next day would do just grand.

  21. Hurson reffed our match against Sligo if I’m not mistaken. So so performance but missed a lot of pulling and dragging off the ball.

  22. Was Hurson on the line in the final or was it replay last year? Cant remember, will dig out the programe later.

  23. There are some interesting stats on the scoring rates of the top players from play in Croke Park – 2012-16 on the dontfoul website.

    Our top 5 are as follows:

    1. Jason Doc 23 from 40 shots (58%)
    2. Alan Dillon 26 from 46 (57%)
    3. Lee Keegan 23 from 42 (55%)
    4. Kevin McLoughlin 22 from 44 (50%)
    5. Cillian O’Connor 29 from 70 (41%)

  24. Jeez WJ that blew my recollections out of the water… ! Must have been the stout in Ciaran’s…

  25. Don’t know if you remember another clash Willie Joe between the two?

    This was a league quarter final in 1993, which (thanks to your results archive) Clare won by 9 to 8.

    I was there and my recollection is of a huge crowd – 20,000 plus, with massive Banner support. Maughan of course was managing the Banner and the lamentable Jack O’Shea was our gaffer. I’m surprised there was only a point in it because my (ageing) memory is that Clare had us in tatters tactically from the off and we never were in with a real shout, if you’ll pardon that Clare expression.

    That was the year of the Cork hammering, 5:15 to 10, leading to jokes from my Dub pals at the time, ‘i asked you for the score not the train time’.

  26. Wake up at the back, Yew Tree! We lost to Wexford in the 1916 All-Ireland final – the first final we were ever in – and we beat Armagh in the semi-final of 1950. Well before the qualifier era, the both of them.

  27. I’m afraid that one came during my London exile, Catcol, so I’ve no memory at all of it. Likewise the All-Ireland semi-final that year, which was played the day after I got married … to a girl from Clare. Interesting week in this house!

  28. Catcol
    I think that was the largest crowd for a lge qf outside Dublin during that format. It was a beautiful day and if I’m not mistaken a blonde haired guy from Charlestown called Reilly I think had a fisted point disallowed or it came off the post in last minute. Carnival atmosphere created by Clare crowd with both bodhrans everywhere.

  29. Yes Onemoretime. You are right on all counts, Kenneth Reilly played and had a point dubiously ruled out, it was Easter Sunday and absolutely roasting. Clare were much the better team on the day according to my recollection.

  30. Good posts there. Yes, I do remember the atmosphere, tremendous excitement.

    The general feeling beforehand, and one that still lingers, (so watch out Rochy), was that Clare weren’t a serious football outfit, despite winning Munster in 1992. Maughan and his Merrimen put paid to that notion.

  31. Willie Joe – Jesus your right. I couldn’t go in 1916 as I was injured after fighting in the GPO and in 1950 I missed the semi due to a wedding 🙂

  32. Clare’s weaknesses seem to be at the back, so we should aim to start the way we finished against Derry, i.e. have scoring forwards up front.

    Their strengths are probably their midfield and their full-forward line so we need to be ready for that. Their corner forwards are speedy and the full-forward is a handy player as well.

  33. Living and working in the banner county and Clare people are fairly confident about saturday, 1 man said to me today that we will win on saturday but lose on sunday. Cant see it myself, if mayo attack from the start with urgency they will get goals and i can see the clare hurlers getting goals.. So its a mayo clare double for me..

  34. Lame enough excuses there, Yew Tree – almost as bad as the Coldplay one being trotted out for this one! I did mention that if we win on Saturday, I’m away for the next round, didn’t I?!

  35. WJ – it’s hard to make them
    All when they are coming this thick and fast. Great days to be following Mayo though. Wonder will we outnumber the home support in Ennis?

  36. Jp2 – please read the house rules on comments (here) and don’t ever attempt to post anything like that here again. Comment moderation play-pen for you now for that one, I’m afraid.

  37. Jp2 – this is a blog with clearly defined rules on what can and can’t be posted on it. Not to promote any kind of communist utopia but instead to ensure that a reasoned, intelligent debate occurs and that the place isn’t infested with all manner of wild rumours or the kind of brain-farts that pass for comment on social media. If that’s too North Korean for you, then go find somewhere else more in tune with your thinking.

  38. Jabers, just had a look at the results archive and it seems that Clare regularly used to turn us over on trips to the banner county back in the 1990s. Not that this is necessarily indicative of what will happen at the weekend, but we should guard against any complacency that a “hurling county” will have any fear of us.

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