Gerry O'Connor satisfied with Clare's Allianz League start
By Cian O’Connell
With four points pocketed, joint manager Gerry O’Connor is satisfied and encouraged by the manner in which Clare have commenced the Allianz Hurling League.
Victories over bluebloods Tipperary and Kilkenny ensure Clare remain heartened ahead of next Sunday’s interesting Cusack Park tussle against Cork.
With Ballyea in AIB All Ireland Club Championship action Clare’s options were restricted in the spring last year, but O’Connor is delighted with the Banner panel in 2018.
Paul Flanagan and Jamie Shanahan recently returned to training with O’Connor acknowledging that Clare have a stronger hand to select from compared to 12 months ago.
“Yeah, and as the Fitzgibbon has advanced and now got to the final stage more and more of our players are coming back into full training from Fitzgibbon duty,” O’Connor admits.
“Paul Flanagan and Jamie Shanahan have now returned to training after long term injuries. We really are only down a few guys; Cian Dillon is travelling, he will be back in March and Aaron Cunningham is gone for the year and Aron Shanagher has an ACL.
“We only have three or four guys not available for training or selection. The biggest headache we are going to have is trying to pick our team for next Sunday.
“Up to this between guys being rested as a result of the Fitzgibbon and guys being injured long term it wasn't that difficult a challenge to pick a 26 and pick your team. It will be a far more demanding and interesting proposition to pick a team for Sunday.”
In Nowlan Park Clare finished strongly with O’Connor delighted by the resilience the visitors demonstrated late on when demanding questions were being posed.
“If you look back on the Kilkenny game we made a fantastic start and we played really good hurling,” O’Connor recalls.
“In the second half Kilkenny came back at us as you would expect them to come back at you. The most pleasing aspect for us was that performance in the last 10 or 15 minutes.
“When Kilkenny piled on the pressure, got it back to a two point game, we were able to control the game, hold our shape in a positive enough way to see out the game and to get a result.”
Cork are next on the agenda for Clare and O’Connor believes the Banner County are moving in the right direction ahead of what promises to be a gripping summer of hurling action.
“It is our last home game, possibly, in the National League until we play in the Championship,” O’Connor says.
“The big thing for us is that we have put two good performances together and we would like to think based on what we have seen on the training pitch with the coaches and the rest of the management team over the past two weeks that we are ready again to build on the performances that we gave against Tipperary and Kilkenny.
“We just feel we are ready to give another top class performance again on Sunday.”