Crusheen's Pat Vaughan is the new Clare senior hurling captain and will lead the county side in 2011. The team vice-captain will be Clonlara’s John Conlon, last year’s U-21 captain.
In preparation for their opening competitive game of the 2011 season, a Clare selection will take on Wexford in a challenge game on the weekend of January 8/9. This will be a repeat of last season’s Division 2 league final, which Wexford won narrowly at Semple Stadium in Thurles, leaving Clare to compete in Division 2 for another season.
“We have a fairly large panel at present and it’s fortunate that this is the case as 14 of the squad will not be available to us for the Waterford Crystal tournament, as they will be playing with their college sides,” team manager, Ger O’Loughlin explained this week.
In addition, Clarecastle’s Jonathon Clancy, a regular member of the squad in recent years, will not be involved in the Waterford Crystal competition as he is out of the country for most of January. Brian O’Connell, team captain for the past few years, has been out of the country in recent months and it is not clear when he will be back. In addition, Alan Markham, Martin ‘Ogie’ Murphy, Mark Flaherty and Michael Scanlon, from last year’s panel, are not part of the current squad.
Among the newcomers who have been drafted in are Cratloe’s Liam Markham, Cathal McInerney and Conor McGrath; Tubber pair, Patrick O’Connor and Mark Earley; Crusheen’s Ciarán O’Doherty, captain of Clare’s All-Ireland winning U-21 side in 2009 and Éire Óg goalkeeper, Kevin Brennan.
“The lads have been working hard in the gym and we are looking forward to going outdoors at this stage. The Waterford Crystal tournament will give players an opportunity to impress, given that so many will be playing with their colleges,” according to O’Loughlin.
In Round 1 of the Waterford Crystal tournament on January 16, Clare will play IT, Tralee with the winners going through to play Limerick IT, who are again managed by Davy Fitzgerald, a week later in a quarter-final game.
Fitzgerald’s Waterford county side will enter the title race at the quarter-final stage on January 23, when they will play Kerry or IT, Cork. Should both Clare and Waterford make it through to the semi-finals, scheduled for January 30, they will be in opposition.
Clare’s opening National League Division 2 game is scheduled for February 13, when Cusack Park will be the venue for a meeting with arch-rivals Limerick, who will be managed by former Cork player and coach Donal O’Grady, this season. A week later, in Round 2 of the league, Clare will be away to Antrim.