Clare vs Louth 14:00 on 08/02/15 at Gaelic Grounds, Drogheda
Round Two of the National Football League sees Clare travel to the Wee County to take on the men of Louth.
Colin Kelly is in his first year in the helm as manager of the Louth Senior Footballers. Prior to taking the role, Kelly represented his county for over a decade and guided the Louth U21 footballers to the 2012 Leinster final where they fell down to the Dubs on a scoreline of 1-16 to 0-08.
From that U21 team, two players will start against Clare on Sunday, namely Patrick Reilly and Eoin O’Connor. Unlike his predecessor Aidan O’Rourke, Kelly is more familiar with the young players coming through the ranks and his knowledge from being in charge of the Louth U21’s can only be a positive for the county.
Nine points separated Louth and Fermanagh in the first round of the NFL. Manager, Kelly has made two changes in personnel from that defeat and six positional switches for the visit of Clare. Brian Donnelly and Derek Maguire drop to the bench with Dessie Finnegan and Conor Grimes being added to the mix.
Grimes moves directly to corner forward in place of Maguire. Finnegan starts at centre back with Pádraig Rath moving to the corner, which pushes Darren O’Hanlon to wing-back and Adrian Reid to wing-forward and forces Bevan Duffy to the midfield ranks.
Losing Eoin O’Connor to a black card early on in their clash with Fermanagh dented their aspirations the last day out but nonetheless they were still very disappointing on the day and gave a below par performance. They will need to up the ante quiet considerable to be in with a shout of getting a win and an important two points on home soil at the weekend.
Louth manager, Colin Kelly has not got the year off to the ideal start. His charges played three games in the O’Byrne Cup versus, losing all three. Twelve points was the difference between them and Kildare in their first outing of the year, UCD prevailed by two points in their meeting while it was the same margin against Carlow less than a month ago. A win on Sunday would be a big boost to all in the Louth camp.
Colm Collins and his charges laid down a marker in Hennessy Memorial Park, Miltown Malbay last weekend. David Power’s fancied Wexford came to town looking for a victory and travelled home with their hands on their heads after suffering a heavy fourteen point defeat.
A striking difference within the Clare Class of 15 is the resounding strength in depth of the squad that exists. Losing Kevin Hartnett minutes before the throw in last week was something that would totally knock the stuffing out of previous Clare teams but their mentality is far stronger and so Hartnett’s loss ensured Stephen Collins started and Dean Ryan moved to full back and gave a fine display.
Enda Coughlan is still on the long-term injury list for Clare with the versatile Kilmurry/Ibrickane man envisaging a return in the first week of March. Eoin Cleary is still rehabilitating following a recent operation. Cratloe clubmates Podge Collins and Cathal McInerney are still doubts for the weekend, both complaining of hamstring issues. An ankle injury forced Meelick’s Hartnett to drop out of the team last weekend and it is yet unsure whether or not he will be fit for Sunday’s clash.
Key to Clare’s comprehensive victory over Wexford in the NFL first round was the variety of different scorers. In the past the Banner have been very reliant on a particular scorer, mostly that has been David Tubridy. While the Doonbeg man hit 0-10 last week he received far more assistance with Pat Burke notching 1-02 on his Clare debut and Shane Brennan, Jamie Malone, Shane Hickey and Gary Brennan all chipped in on the scoreboard.
An area of improvement for Clare following last weekend’s win is their decision making. Instead of the sometimes difficult cross-field pass, a more direct style of play would suit the Clare attackers and make their job that bit easier. Coupled with that was the amount of turnovers won by Wexford as a result of the poor decision making when preparing to make a pass. They need to the basic things right and avoid trying to over elaborate certain styles of their play, once it is simple yet effective there will be very few areas of the Clare game left to criticise.
A win is very important for the Wee County this weekend. 2014 saw only one win in League and Championship as they were relegated from Division 2 of the NFL and could only manage to beat Westmeath in the championship. Louth football needs a boost and this Sunday is a great platform for that. Colin Kelly will need big performances from Daniel Byrne, Eoin O’Connor, Ryan Burns and Derek Crilly for this to be achieved.
For Clare the mantra for the NFL is the ‘game by game’ approach, a tried and trusted method and the correct method to use. They passed their first test with flying colours, now the next assignment takes places in the County Grounds with the smallest capacity in the country, a convenient statistic as it will be just the loyal Clare football followers who will make the trek to Louth. Clare must get scores on the board regularly, for momentum to stay with them but they will be need to be wiser with their style of play. Solid displays from Gary Brennan, Pat Burke, Gordon Kelly, Martin McMahon and Seán Collins should see Clare to a win in excess of six points.
1: Neil Gallagher (Cooley Kickhams)
2: Kevin Toner (St Patricks)
3: Patrick Reilly (Naomh Bríd)
4: Padraig Rath (Dreadnots)
5: Derek Crilly (Dundalk Gaels)
6: Dessie Finnegan (St Patricks)
7: Darren O’Hanlon (St Patricks)
8: Bevan Duffy (St Fechins)
9: Eoin O’Connor (St Patricks)
10: Adrian Reid (Mattock Rangers)
11: Daniel O’Connor (St Patricks)
12: Daniel Byrne (Naomh Mochta)
13: Ryan Burns (Hunterstown Rovers)
14: Conor Grimes (Glen Emmets)
15: Colm Judge (Newtown Blues).
1: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey)
2: Martin McMahon (Kilmurry/Ibrickane)
3: Dean Ryan (Éire Óg)
4: Stephen Collins (St Josephs Doora/Barefield)
5: Jamie Malone (Corofin)
6: Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown)
7: Ciarán Russell (Éire Óg)
8: Gary Brennan (Clondegad)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)
10: Seán Collins (Cratloe)
11: Shane Hickey (Kilmurry/Ibrickane)
12: Shane McGrath (Thomas Davis)
13: David Tubridy (Doonbeg)
14: Shane Brennan (Clondegad)
15: Pat Burke (Kilmacud Crokes).