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6 reasons why Clare hurlers can turn their season around

The Banner boys can bounce back from Sunday’s defeat to Limerick.

Davy Fitzgerald will attempt to get Clare's season back on track.
Davy Fitzgerald will attempt to get Clare's season back on track.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Brendan Bugler and Conor McGrath will return

Suspended Brendan Bugler and injured Conor McGrath were massive losses to Clare on Sunday.

Bugler’s physicality and leadership skills would have made an immense difference in the half-back line and McGrath is one of hurling’s deadliest marksmen.

In a game where just one point separated the teams, the presence of that key duo could well have tilted the balance in Clare’s favour.

David Reidy scored a second half point but was taken off on his senior championship debut while McGrath’s absence had a knock-on effect on three lines of the team.

John Conlon, Shane O’Donnell and Reidy started nominally in the Clare inside line but O’Donnell operated effectively as a one-man unit close to goal.

With McGrath and possibly two-goal star Aaron Cunningham working either side of O’Donnell as the summer progresses, Clare will present a far bigger scoring threat.

Davy Fitzgerald looks on as Brendan Bugler leaves the field after being sent off Brendan Bugler's red card from the Wexford game last year proved costly for Clare. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

2. Flaws exposed can be worked on

Clare’s indiscipline returned to haunt them again, in a number of ways.

Shane Dowling was allowed to profit with ten pointed frees and the Na Piarsaigh hitman could have finished with one or two more to his name.

And, of course, there was another red card for a key Clare player, with captain Patrick Donnellan dismissed at half-time.

Clare need to cut out the concession of scoreable frees and Fitzgerald will focus heavily on how his players tackle opponents.

Former coach Paul Kinnerk was highly-rated in this regard but the Limerick native is no longer a member of the Clare backroom team.

Clare have received four red cards in their last three championship games and a full compliment available to them for the full 70 minutes on Sunday would have made a huge difference.

Paul Kinnerk Paul Kinnerk has been a loss to Clare's backroom team. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

3. Championship debutants have been blooded

The performances of Shane Golden, David Reidy and and Gearóid O’Connell were praised by Fitzgerald after Sunday’s game.

For Reidy and O’Connell, this was their first taste of senior championship fare, while Golden did play a part in last year’s drawn qualifier against Wexford at Cusack Park.

All three were taken off against Limerick but the experience will have done them no harm at all as Clare regroup ahead of the qualifiers.

Fitzgerald has some big decisions to make as he plots a course through the back door.

In his post-match comments, he insisted that Bugler and McGrath must fight their way back into the team, with Aaron Cunningham also pushing hard for a start after scoring two goals after coming off the bench.

David Reidy and Tom Condon David Reidy will have learned a huge amount from his championship debut. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

4. Shane O’Donnell’s form

O’Donnell may only have finished with a point but there was much more than that to admire about his display.

The 2013 All-Ireland final hat-trick hero endured an injury-blighted season last year but he has shown flashes of top form again in 2015.

Ploughing a lone furrow close to the Limerick goal, O’Donnell worked desperately hard throughout and displayed a real appetite for work.

If Clare get on a prolonged summer run again, the goals could well follow, particularly if O’Donnell is supplemented by added quality around him.

The Éire Óg hitman remains a vital cog in the Clare wheel and we haven’t seen the last of him this summer. 

Shane OÕDonnell and Stephen Walsh Shane O'Donnell carried the fight to Limerick on Sunday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Clare have been down this road before…

…and finished 2013 as All-Ireland winners after losing the Munster semi-final to Cork.

Clare could be better served through the back door again as Sunday’s winners Limerick still have two fences to jump if they want to win another Munster title.

An opening round championship defeat is a big setback, no doubt, but Clare showed enough in defeat, and down to 14 men in the second half, to suggest that they will still have a big role to play in championship 2015.

Fitzgerald famously turned Clare’s year around two years ago with a meeting in his house after the Cork defeat at the Gaelic Grounds.

Miwadi and biscuits were the order of the day on that occasion and Fitzy might be making the trip to his local supermarket again as he tries to figure out where Clare go from here.

A dejected manager Davy Fitzgerald Davy Fitzgerald and Clare can pick themselves up again. Source: Tommy Greally/INPHO

6. Podge Collins and Colm Galvin could be back

Fitzgerald will surely be monitoring the progress of the Clare footballers, and Podge Collins specifically.

Collins was a star of the 2013 campaign, nominated for both the Young Hurler and Hurler of the year awards two years ago.

But the Cratloe dynamo was sent off against Wexford last summer and decided to focus his attention on football this year, with his father Colm managing the team.

If the footballers go out of the championship at an early date, Fitzgerald will surely look to bring Collins back in to the hurling camp and his return would be a major fillip to the many players he has soldiered with at U21 and senior level in the past.

Midfielder Colm Galvin has also indicated that he would open to rejoining the Clare squad when he returns from America later in the summer, with August his expected return date.

The key for Clare is to dig in and remain involved in the championship for as long as possible, which will provide Fitzgerald with more squad options.

Podge Collins Podge Collins could feature for the Clare hurlers before the season is over. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

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