by Paddy Hickey
Heading into his eighth year at the helm, Clare football boss Colm Collins is hoping some of his promising young panelists will be pushing hard for starting places ahead of the Munster Championship clash with Kerry.
With the likes of long-serving duo Gordon Kelly and Gary Brennan having decided to close the door on their inter-county involvement after their respective distinguished careers in defence and at midfield, Collins has wasted no time in trawling the Banner County to unearth some talented new faces to add to his squad.
“As well as having most of the lads from last year, we’ve also decided to bring into this year’s panel about eight or nine promising young lads,” revealed Collins, who, following Mickey Harte’s move from Tyrone to Louth, is now the longest serving current football manager with the one county
“These are lads who have played with the county at minor and under-20 level and who have also shown up very well in the various club championships.
“Over the course of the next few weeks in training, we will be taking a close look at those lads and we’ll see what they are made of.
“And hopefully a number of them will show up sufficiently well to be considered for the starting fifteen for the Kerry game.”
With the exception of Kelly, and Brennan, who after retiring early last year, made a surprise return to help Clare retain their Division Two status, and also lined out in the Munster first round defeat by Tipperary, manager Collins will be able to call on all the members of his panel who featured in the 2020 campaign.
"As a result of no games being played and no training being permitted since the start of the year, we don’t have any injury worries ahead of the game against Kerry,” he pointed out.
“And with travelling not being allowed, we won’t be missing any lads who might be out of the country.”
When the pairings for this year’s Munster Championship were made on Monday, many observers would have felt that it was tantamount to a draw from hell for the Banner County.
But despite his charges having to take on the mighty Kingdom, who crashed out of last year’s provincial semi-final against Cork after substitute Mark Keane’s last minute goal, the Clare supremo is adopting a very positive approach towards the knock-out fixture, which will take place at either Killarney or Tralee.
“Of course, Kerry will be widely viewed as one of the strongest contenders for the All-Ireland, and they have a fantastic football tradition,” remarked the Cratloe clubman
“But despite that we’re really looking forward to the challenge against them, and really it doesn’t really matter whether you’re playing Kerry in the first round of the Munster Championship or in the Munster final.
“In any case, there was a one-in-three chance of us being drawn against Kerry in the first round in Munster (last year’s provincial finalists Tipperary and Cork received byes into this year’s semi-final stage, leaving Kerry, Limerick and Waterford as possible first round rivals for Clare).
“And, unlike last year when Tipperary won the Munster title, you generally won’t get out of the province without beating Kerry.”Tweet