Tuesday 20 February 2018

Doyle insists Banner need top-flight action to reach next level

Jackie Cahill

CLARE selector Liam Doyle agrees with Wexford manager Colm Bonnar's assessment that both Division 2 NHL finalists should be operating in the top flight.

Bonnar and Clare boss Ger O'Loughlin have called for a return to the 12-team Division 1 format which was in place from 1998-2008.

"You have the top teams and the teams that are that little bit behind. Maybe we're in the latter category but, to improve, we need to be playing against the top teams," Doyle said.

At a time when hurling in the county is at a low ebb, Wexford -- beaten in the Division 2 final last year -- would benefit from playing against the top teams, while Clare need high-quality matches to build on last year's historic Munster and All-Ireland U-21 successes.

Doyle, a double All-Ireland senior medallist from 1995 and 1997, added: "No disrespect to the Downs, Carlows and Westmeaths, but the pace of hurling in Division 1 is far greater than Division 2.

"Competing for the top honours, in our case, will take a bit of time but you want to be playing against the best to gauge yourself."

O'Loughlin drafted Doyle into his new Clare set-up last Christmas and the role has helped to keep the Bodyke man's time occupied after he was laid off last year from Element Six (formerly De Beers) in Shannon after 21 years of service.

The Clare manager and his backroom team flooded the senior squad with members of last year's U-21 team and the upshot has been progression to Sunday's final at Semple Stadium.

The acrimonious departure of former manager Mike McNamara in many ways overshadowed last year's U-21 success, but this year there have been no reports of discontent in the Clare camp.

"We never spoke about last year at all. We met the squad for the first time in early January and 2009 was never mentioned," Doyle said. "That was a different management and a different set-up.

"We looked to 2010 and set out goals for ourselves. Getting out of Division 2 was one of them. The championship is only five weeks from next Monday and that's in the back of our minds too, but we're looking no further than Sunday.

"We'll assess the league on Monday or Tuesday and then turn our minds to June 7 (against Waterford)."

Irish Independent

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