Wednesday 24 May 2017

Collins invokes Clough's case for good defence in Banner promotion drive

Collins: Building on defence. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Collins: Building on defence. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Colm Collins is evoking the spirit of legendary soccer manager Brian Clough as he continues his building work with a Clare squad whose defensive solidity has been crucial in their attempt to rise from Divisions 3 to 1 in successive seasons.

"Clough used to say 'get the best goalkeeper you can, put four very good defenders in front of him and work out from there'. It worked well for him too.

"And there's a saying in American football, 'offense wins matches but defence wins championships'. It's right - you're going nowhere without getting the defence right," said Collins.

Clare held the best defensive record when winning promotion from Division 3 last year and now have the lowest giveaway (3-44) after four games in the more competitive Division 2.

That's despite being hit for 3-13 by Galway on a day when Clare suffered a serious malfunction in a number of areas.

"We didn't play well that day and there's no better team than Galway to punish you when you don't get it right. They have some very classy forwards and they punished us. It was just one of those days for us," said Collins.

Apart from that aberration, Clare's defensive system has been highly efficient, conceding a total of just 31 points against Derry (11), Down (11) and Cork (9).

It has hoisted Clare into third place on the table, a point behind Kildare (6pts) and level with Galway (5pts), but behind their neighbours on scoring difference, with games against Fermanagh, Kildare and Meath to come.

With only four points separating the eight counties, Collins believes that all the big decisions will be made on the final day.

"There's very little between the teams. We've seen that from the results so far. No team has remained unbeaten," he said.

"But then, there's probably little enough between the teams at the lower end of Division 1 and teams all the way to the top end of Division 4. On a given day, results could go any way.

"In Division 2, I would be very surprised if it didn't go down to the last day to see who's promoted and who's relegated."

Fermanagh, who Clare play on Sunday, are bottom of the table but Collins believes there will be a backlash from Peter McGrath's men after losing their last three games against Galway, Cork and Kildare.

Clare beat Fermanagh in the final round in Division 3 in 2015 but Collins points out that both sides were playing under contrasting circumstances.

"Fermanagh were already sure of promotion while we had to win to make sure we weren't caught in relegation trouble," explained Collins.

"As well as that, the game was in Ennis - we have to go to Enniskillen on Sunday and this time they are fighting against relegation so we're expecting a real battle."

Irish Independent

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