Friday 21 October 2016

Clare are 'playing to win rather than not to lose', insists Collins

Published 05/04/2016 | 02:30

Clare players Cathal O’Connor, Keelan Sexton and Dean Ryan celebrate their promotion to Division 2 in Newbridge. Photo: Sportsfile
Clare players Cathal O’Connor, Keelan Sexton and Dean Ryan celebrate their promotion to Division 2 in Newbridge. Photo: Sportsfile

There was a mind-numbing number of permutations across the divisions on Sunday but the Clare footballers knew that they were in the box seat to join Kildare in Division 2 next year thanks to their healthy scoring difference of plus 31.

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Still they went to Newbridge with the idea of keeping promotion in their own hands, rather leaving things to chance elsewhere. The Banner went down at St Conleth's Park but they went down swinging.

They hit 1-14 in the process, only their joint-third highest total of the year.

"You need to be hitting 17 points to win games these days," Clare manager Colm Collins explained.

Since taking charge of the Banner footballers, Collins has sent his team out to play. Deploying a packed defence can offer a refuge for managers looking to avoid possible embarrassment and make up for shortcomings in their teams but Collins has shunned the idea of making his team hard to beat.

As he puts it, he likes his team to go and "play to win, rather than not to lose".


"I think there's a responsibility there," he continued. "To play football the way it's meant to be played. I'm not saying you go out and be naive but there is way to play, to do the thing service.

"You are only holding the baton for a couple of years until someone else comes in.

"And I have to say we are lucky in Clare that we have the players to play the way we want, maybe if I didn't you might play differently.

"But I do think the game is bigger than the people involved."

From a management point of view, it's an easier sell to players too.

"The most important thing is that they play with a smile on their face. There's no point doing anything else considering how much they are putting into it. Then it's easier to the make the what's called 'winning choices' rather than sacrifices."

Kildare burned away in the final quarter to see off the Banner and run out five-point winners and Collins reckons his side might have tired late on after their early exertions.

After the final whistle, there were a few anxious minutes as they waited on confirmation of the other results but when all was totted up, Clare will play in Division 2 alongside the likes of Cork and Galway next year.

"There was great relief when the news came through. I saw a picture in the paper and you could see the relief on one of the lad's faces.

"Time will tell how much of an impact playing there will have," Collins said.

"But I do think it's important to play at as high a level as possible so it's important from that point of view. And it is a great reward for a fantastic group of players who have worked very hard."

Their reward for their approach is a trip to Croke Park in a fortnight where they'll play Kildare once more.

It offers Clare a rare chance at silverware and is their second final appearance of the year after reaching the McGrath Cup decider in January.

Collins, however, remains pragmatic and insists the Division 3 final will be treated as part of their championship preparations.

"I'm sure (Kildare manager) Cian (O'Neill) will be in the same mindset as us. We'll be looking at this as the start of our championship preparation.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for our lads to play in Croke Park. A few of them would have played there a couple of years ago in the Division 4 final but I'd imagine none of the rest of them have.

"So it's a great occasion, we have promotion and that's the important thing but it would be a much different occasion if there was only one team going up from the game.

"It's a great idea and great credit to the GAA for getting this going."

Clare have confirmed they will appeal the red card picked up by star forward David Tubridy that could rule him out of the league final.

Collins' son Podge also took another step back to full fitness by playing 20 minutes against Kildare in Newbridge last weekend.

"He got through it at the weekend. It's a big ask to go in against those lads who are flying fit but he did ok and hopefully over the next couple of weeks he'll get a few club games under his belt."

Irish Independent

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