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James Crombie/INPHO Former Clare hurling captain Cian Dillon.
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Ex-Clare captain to return from travelling, injuries for Tipp game and new Banner teenage prospect
Clare’s 2018 league campaign begins on Sunday against Tipperary.

FORMER CLARE HURLING captain Cian Dillon is in line to rejoin the Banner squad before the start of the 2018 championship as he is due to return home from travelling in early March.

The potential availability of Dillon, who was joint captain for the county’s 2016 league success, this summer is a boost for Clare as they get set for their league opener against Tipperary next Sunday without seven members of the squad that faced the Premier in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Dillon and Aaron Cunningham, who has moved to Australia, are both away while Patrick Donnellan and Brendan Bugler have retired.

Jamie Shanahan, Cathal McInerney and Oisin O’Brien are all set to miss next Sunday’s game in Ennis due to injury.

Outside of the 26-man squad involved for that game with Tipperary last July, Clare are also facing into the 2018 season without Aron Shanagher, who tore his cruciate, while Colin Ryan and Darach Honan called time on their inter-county careers last winter.

“Cian has been travelling since October but is due back the first or second week of March,” Clare joint manager Gerry O’Connor told The42.

“I spoke to him last week. Myself and Donal (Moloney) would have sat down with him before he went. He’s a national school teacher and was never going to get this opportunity to take a five month break again.

“With Aaron Cunningham, he’s working in Australia now. He was home for Christmas and we met him but he’s out of our plans now for 2018. That’s fair enough.

“A lot of these guys have been on the go for a long time. When they’ve the opportunity to take a year out, you can’t stop or impede them.

“If you try to a stop a guy going, they’re going to be resentful of you. It’s far better off to let them off and have that experience. Everybody has to establish a work-life balance, that’s key to any system working.

“We’ve a few injuries for this Sunday. Oisin O’Brien is battling a knee (problem), Cathal McInerney (is out) with (a) groin strain. They’ll be back into training in three or four weeks. Jamie Shanahan is out with a back injury that’s recurring.

“Every year brings retirements and additions. We’ve four or five guys that have moved on after giving great service to Clare hurling. We’ve freshened up the panel with 10 outfield additions and one goalkeeper.

“(We’ve) guys in just out of minor that we have never worked with them before. That’s added to the freshness and really created a new dynamic. We’re looking forward to expressing ourselves this year.”

Gerry O’Connor Tommy Dickson / INPHO Clare joint-manager Gerry O'Connor. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

One of Clare’s new young additions is teenager Diarmuid Ryan, a brother of 2013 All-Ireland winner Conor, who has linked up after playing minor for the county last season.

He is midfield on the Árdscoil Rís Dr Harty Cup team, scoring 1-4 in their recent quarter-final win over Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG, and with a semi-final tie looming on Saturday, his priority this weekend will be with his school team.

“Diarmuid will be looking at the Harty semi-final on Saturday, he’s not in our plans for Sunday,” says O’Connor.

“He’s only 18, he’s a tremendous talent, a young developing guy. We expect to see a lot of him before the year is out given the quality of his performances in training.

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“But we will look after him. Liam Cronin who is part of our coaching team, is with Árdscoil Rís so there’s a link there to keep an eye on what’s he doing. Common sense and logic should always prevail.”

Diarmuid Ryan and Evan Sheehan Ryan Byrne / INPHO Diarmuid Ryan in action for Clare against Cork in last summer's Munster minor hurling final. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

O’Connor is looking forward to embracing the new hurling system in 2018 which will see an increased volume of games but also the prospect of Clare playing championship ties at their Cusack Park home against Waterford on 27 May and Limerick on 17 June.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic. (There’ll be) two huge championship matches in Ennis, (I) can’t remember when there was one game in Cusack Park. It’ll be massive for the town.

“The Clare support can be a little shy at times, we really would appeal to them to turn out next Sunday. It’s a new team and a new era, we’re really looking forward to it.

“The importance of support came home last year when we played Kilkenny on the back of a disappointing performance to Cork. It was a huge boost to the players then. We would be hoping there would be a large turnout of fans on Sunday.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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