Clare vs Sligo 28/02/15 at 14:00 in Cusack Park, Ennis
With Clare currently sitting in fourth spot in the NFL Division 3 table, a win is imperative in order for them to stay in the top half.
On the other hand, their opponents Sligo are second from bottom in the table and are without a win. Victory for the Yeats County is vital as worries of relegation increase so they will travel to Cusack Park intent on returning home with a win in the bag.
Former Waterford manager, Niall Carew is now in the Sligo hotseat and he has plenty of knowledge of the Clare players having faced the Banner three times in 2014 in charge of the Deise. Kildare native, Carew admits it won’t be easy on Sunday. We know we can compete with anyone. No matter what team we put out against Limerick and Fermanagh we were able to compete in those matches. It is just to get those few breaks – and that will come. It won’t be the case in every game that we will be unlucky. We have to keep working hard and make sure we make as many opportunities as possible for the forwards.”
2010 All-Star Charlie Harrison, wing-forward Brian Curran, full-back Johnny Martyn and St Mary’s man Stephen Coen are all ruled of this weekend’s tie with injury. Manager Carew says it isn’t ideal to be missing the players but he’s still confident of a win. “I think we will have a team good enough to beat Clare but it would be nice to have the majority of the panel available.”
In their opening two games of this year’s League campaign, Sligo have suffered a two point defeat to both Limerick and Fermanagh. To date Sligo have beaten in terms of physicality and hunger while they have also lacked composure in front of goal. These areas must be dealt with by the Sligo management; otherwise they will find it difficult on Sunday.
The Connacht men have yet to hit the ground running in this year’s NFL campaign, two defeats in two matches leaves a lot to be desired so it’s now or never for Sligo if they want to be in with a shout come the business end of the League. Big performances will be needed from Brendan Egan, Kenneth Sweeney, Ross Donovan, Mark Breheny and Adrian Marren.
For Clare, Sunday is all about getting back to business. An impressive 1-16 to 0-05 opening round win over Wexford got a lot of Clare people talking about the chances of this outfit; it would appear the talk affected the Banner in Drogheda as they experienced a disappointing nine point defeat.
Since their defeat to Louth, Clare have welcomed both Kevin Hartnett and Cathal McInerney back to training with the duo overcoming ankle and hamstring injuries respectively. Meelick’s Hartnett is fit to play on Sunday but is expected not to make the starting fifteen. McInerney has yet to feature in the 2015 campaign for the footballers, he played a starring role for UL in their semi-final win of the Fitzgibbon Cup and his involvement with the college may prevent him from getting game-time in Ennis.
A common error in Clare’s displays in this year’s NFL is their use of possession. They weren’t punished in Miltown for giving the ball away but they paid the price against the Wee County for coughing up the ball as Louth made their turnovers count on the scoreboard. No doubt Colm Collins, Ger Keane and Ephie Fitzgerald have drilled it into their squad over the last three weeks that when Clare are in possession they’re in control, in order to stay in control of the contest, they must make use of the ball when it is in their possession.
After playing over one hundred and forty minutes of football, the Banner have only hit the back of the net on one occasion when Pat Burke raised a green flag in the dying moments of the League opener versus Wexford. As the old adage says ‘Goals win matches’ and as the NFL progresses Clare will need to raise as much green flags as possible. Clare will need solid displays from Gary Brennan, Gordon Kelly, Seán Collins, David Tubridy, Martin McMahon and Podge Collins in Sunday’s encounter.
Each side has their own motivation for Sunday, whether it is trying to avoid a relegation dogfight or attempting to secure promotion. As this writer professed prior to the commencement of this year’s NFL, if Clare want to complete back-to-back promotions, they have to win all their home games and pick up points on the road. The Banner’s ability to win the breaks should see them record a second home win at the weekend.