Duggan's free mind crucial to Banner dreams
Clare star says he never lets misses faze him as he sets his sights on Munster glory
Amassing 3-76 in eight championship games last year, Peter Duggan felt like an overnight sensation for Clare.
If you weren't watching closely enough, you might have missed the previous six seasons he had spent drifting in and out of teams since Davy Fitzgerald introduced him in his school years.
Duggan had promise - he was part of all three All-Ireland U-21-winning teams between 2012 and 2014 - but was a project Fitzgerald could never fully sign off on. His successors, Gerry O'Connor and Donal Moloney, knew him from their U-21 days but they too couldn't instantly unlock the talent that lay within when pitched into the senior job together.
By the end of their first year, 2017, Duggan privately assessed whether he should quit the inter-county game or not.
But his club Clooney-Quin's advance to a Clare final that year for the first time in 73 years gave him impetus that he didn't let go of throughout 2018.
Duggan started all eight championship games Clare played, one more than the number he had featured in during the previous seven seasons.
With Colin Ryan departed and a desire to lighten Tony Kelly's load, Duggan was entrusted with free-taking responsibilities and it has had a transformative effect, not just on his team but on his own game.
"It is a way to trigger my game if I am not playing great and or if a ball or two has gone over during play it gives me time to reset," he revealed. "I always have the mindset that if I miss a free, so what? And I just do the same thing over the next one and whatever happens, happens.
"I use the frees as a way to reset my mind and to be able to concentrate on the next ball. It is a hard thing to do. It is not as easy as just putting the ball down and putting it over the bar."
Duggan converted 1-68 from placed balls in last year's championship, helping him to a first All-Star.
Curiously, he found his percentages from middle and longer distances were just as high as those he hit from close range. It has led to a change of style this season.
"I missed a lot more of the easier ones," he reflected. "I missed three or four of the shorter in ones by just being blocked down because of the trajectory I put on them. I was hitting my frees very low and guys were lining up in front of me. That is one thing I learned from and this year I will clearly have to raise the trajectory.
"The style I would have had would have been based on hitting the ball low and hard and the harder I hit it the straighter it is. I have always had that kind of technique. In wet conditions, my ball can go anywhere but in dry weather it just goes dead straight so that is why I have always hit them low and hard," said the 26-year-old.
"You can still afford to hit them low and hard from far out because your trajectory is always going to be a small bit higher than it is for the closer in ones," he pointed out.
In the second half of last year's Munster final, he struggled to get a few airborne but had the presence of mind not to let it affect him.
"I have practised enough that I know if I miss I know that it is not because I am not able to do it.
"I always reset my mind in the same way in that whatever happens, happens and if I miss it I don't let it bother me, I just reset and hit the free the exact same way I intended to hit the first one.
"Some people just don't like hitting frees and I have just always loved hitting them. If it happens this year that I am not hitting them great then there are people there who can take them. Niall Deasy is one of the best free-takers in Ireland let alone Clare and if it comes that I am not going great on them there is no fear there are people there to back me up."
Inevitably, Clare's quest to end an ever-lengthening gap to their last Munster Championship success is front and centre for them.
"As players, it's the one thing we would all absolutely love," he admitted. "Last year we were brilliant in the first half and whatever happened after that we didn't do it in the second against Cork. We like to play our own game but we let them change the whole formula and they got on top of us. It was the same two years ago in the Munster final.
"We've always found it difficult to win a Munster title. Even in 2013, we were nowhere near it and lucky enough then to get on a run after it."