Clare taking 'step-by-step' building work to Croke Park
Published 21/04/2016 | 02:30
It happens on one weekend in the year only, the occasion when six counties get to play in Croke Park with an unfettered sense of freedom.
Defeat will, of course, disappoint but the repercussions won't be serious as the Allianz Football League has already bequeathed its main largesse.
This time, it's the turn of Cavan, Tyrone, Clare, Kildare, Antrim and Louth, who contest the Divisions 2, 3, 4 finals on Saturday and Sunday, to enjoy the pleasant atmosphere.
The Dublin v Kerry Division 1 final is, of course, the big attraction and while the longer term significance is questionable, it still attracts a high level of pressure.
For the other six, the league has already delivered its main prize, promotion to Divisions 1, 2, 3 respectively.
Tyrone (Div 2), Kildare (Div 3), Antrim and Louth (Div 4) were all well-fancied for promotion; Cavan (Div 2) were highly- regarded too, leaving Clare (Div 3) as the longest-priced outsiders (11/1) to achieve a top-two finish.
They play Kildare in the Division 3 decider on Saturday (4.0) in what manager, Colm Collins describes as "a game we're really going to enjoy because we can".
It comes after a campaign where Clare took the second promotion slot behind Kildare .
"We have a very good squad and I felt that we had a real chance of being promoted. As the table showed it was close between a lot of us but we got there.
"Now we're off to Croke Park, which is great. Kildare beat us earlier on but hopefully we'll have learned a lot from that defeat. The great thing is that it gives us Croke Park experience which will be a help if we get there in the championship. That's what every county wants," he said.
He believes that the lift for Clare, provided by the hurlers with the All-Ireland win in 2013, has boosted the footballers too.
"Lads saw that and said, 'If the hurlers can do it, why can't we?' We're working on a project here, building step by step. That's why getting into Division 2 is such a boost," he said.
His dual-star son, Podge, who missed most of last year due to a knee injury, is back on duty with both Clare hurlers and footballers, a role that his father says is easily managed, once there's co-operation on all sides.
Podge's training programme has been worked out between the two camps and is operating to everybody's satisfaction.
"What's important where dual players are concerned is that everyone respects what they want to do. Once you have that - and we have - it's possible to work around things," said Collins.