McInerney: Banner babes can force big shake-up
CLARE'S All Star full-back David McInerney believes there could be several changes to their All-Ireland starting line-up this summer and that manager Davy Fitzgerald has "a lot of tough decisions" ahead.
As one of the youngsters who have also won the last two All-Ireland U-21 titles, McInerney believes the next wave of Banner babes are now ready to break into their senior team.
The Tulla star is just three weeks over-age for the U-21 grade this year but says that has allowed him to concentrate all his energies with the county seniors.
"I'm a good bit hungrier in training this year but there's a brilliant squad there. I think there's going to be a few changes," the student teacher predicted.
"We've used 27 or 28 lads over the course of the league and I've seen some of them – like Jack Browne, Paul Flanagan, Cathal McInerney and David Reidy – really stepping up.
"There's a lot of tough decisions to be made by Davy Fitz this year."
That could start as early as next weekend's Allianz League semi-final against Tipperary in Limerick.
"Clare have not won the league since the '70s (1978) and that is an awful long time to wait," McInerney said. "This year we want to win everything we can and it (the league) means a lot to the people of Clare, so we will be pushing full force for it."
Clare have already beaten Kilkenny, lost to Dublin, slaughtered Waterford and drawn with Galway and were pushed hard by Division 1B side Laois in the quarter-finals. They beat Tipp in the third round, when Conor McGrath got a memorable hat-trick in Thurles.
McInerney, who plays in the forwards for his club, acknowledged that their All-Ireland success meant many of their opponents got a training jump on them but says the Banner's youth, and the strong fitness base they built up last year, has stood to them.
"Fitness is one of the strong aspects of our game and I don't think we lost much over the winter. I think we regained it a bit quicker than Davy might have thought," he said.
But he reckons Tipperary will be a different prospect now to their earlier meeting.
"It is testament to Tipperary that when the pressure came on, and they were facing relegation, they really turned it around. They have gained a bit of momentum now – so this is going to be a tough match on Sunday.
"Bubbles (John) O'Dwyer and Seamus Callanan are in great form and Tipperary are always tough to beat, in the Gaelic Grounds," he noted.
Tipp may opt for a sweeper this time and McInerney reckons that the trend for tactics in hurling is only going to increase further this year.
"Every match this year involved a lot of tactics. It's going to come into the game a lot more: sweepers, extra men in places, one-man full-forward lines."
McInerney's father Jim was part of the famous Clare team that made their All-Ireland breakthrough in 1995 and he now finds himself at the receiving end of the sort of hero-worship that he once had for men like Seanie McMahon and Jamesie O'Connor.
"You could be walking down the street now in Dublin and people might just come up and say hello to you," he grinned.
"That wouldn't have happened a couple of years ago! It is a great feeling to be All-Ireland champions but we really want to back it up this year."