Having recently returned from their team holiday in Cancun after a long winter of All-Ireland celebrations, Davy Fitzgerald finally got his Clare side back out on the playing pitch on Sunday, where a number of fringe players caught the eye in a 1-14 to 0-11 Waterford Crystal Cup win over Limerick in Sixmilebridge.
It was an especially productive day for two of the Banner County’s newcomers – Bobby Duggan, a prodigy just out of the minor ranks, hit 12 points, while Cathal O’Connell scored 1-1, including a first half goal that had the All-Ireland champions well in command at half-time against a Limerick side that were late arriving at the ground due to heavy traffic.
“The lads today were saying ‘We want to be on the panel, we want to be on the team’. We’ll have to cut the panel later and it won’t be easy," Fitzgerald said. "A lot of the lads out there today gave a fair performance. I’ve got to get my first team a bit of action although a good question now is — what is my first team? I’m going to have to start giving game-time to the other (first-team) lads.”
Fitzgerald added: “We played alright but Limerick had three goal chances in the first half which they didn’t take. Limerick were missing a lot (of players) as well so we won’t be reading much into it. My honest opinion is that we are going to be under pressure in the first few rounds of the League. I don’t think we’ll have enough done.
“I’m looking at other counties – the likes of Kilkenny and Dublin – they have weeks and weeks of work done. That’s a worry for us going into the League.”
Limerick’s joint manager TJ Ryan was reasonably happy with his players’ performance, but he was not satisfied with the number of goal chances they squandered, particularly in the first half when the Munster champions had at least three clear-cut chances to raise a green flag.
“We’d have been happy with a few of the performances but we missed a lot of chances in front of goals, missed a lot of frees," Ryan said. "We had a few chances to get back into the game but conceded a few soft frees which they scored — that was the difference.”
Clare will now play UCC in the semi-final next Sunday, at 2pm in Sixmilebridge once again, the Leeside students having beaten Mary I by 3-28 to 2-14 at the Mardyke with the help of a 1-6 haul from Cork's Conor Lehane.
Tipperary face UL in the second semi-final, a game scheduled for MacDonagh Park, Nenagh at 2pm, after a very comfortable win over Kerry at Austin Stack Park, Tralee.
Scorers for Clare: B Duggan (0-12, 9fs); C O’Connell (1-1); K Ryan (0-1).