Sport Hurling

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Staying in league hunt 'vital' to prepare us for title defence – Bugler

Brendan Bugler, Clare, in action against Henry Shefflin, Kilkenny
Brendan Bugler, Clare, in action against Henry Shefflin, Kilkenny
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

WITH no championship action until the middle of June, Clare star Brendan Bugler insists it is "vital" his team extend their league season past this weekend.

Clare have made a bright start to the year as they look to defend their All-Ireland title and have tasted defeat just once – to Dublin – since the start of their league campaign.

However, a loss to Tipperary in Sunday's league semi-final in Limerick would see the Banner facing into an eight-week fallow period before they start their Munster championship campaign against either Cork or Waterford.

"We don't have a Munster quarter-final this year, Cork and Waterford are playing, so we're not out until the middle of June and you want to be playing competitive games for as long as possible. It's vitally important for us to stay playing," Bugler said.

After admitting that the celebrations in the wake of last year's All-Ireland success left the squad drained, Bugler (above) believes Davy Fitzgerald has added more depth to his panel over the course of the league.

"We were all new to it (the celebrations) and every weekend we were being pulled left, right and centre to attend these things but that's part and parcel of being All-Ireland champions.

"Once we went on a holiday and came back we were very much focused on 2014 and last year was put to the back of our minds, especially by our management team.

"We got more of an opportunity this year to experiment and introduce new guys like Jack Brown, Paul Flanagan, Bobby and Peter Duggan; they all got quality game-time.

"Last year we were playing more or less the same 15 every league game, whereas this year we got the opportunity to rest the likes of Podge (Collins) who was involved with the footballers as well so we've got to learn a lot more about our panel in this league."

Clare ran out seven-point winners when they met Tipp in Semple Stadium in the league and Bugler is expecting to face a team with a point to prove when they clash this weekend.

"I know from talking to a couple of Tipp boys that they were hurting big time from last year. They would have seen what we would have done and I know for a fact that a lot of those boys would have been very jealous over what Clare had done so they're going to be coming out all guns blazing this year.

"They weren't happy with the start they made but Tipp being Tipp they dug deep and dug it out against Dublin and recorded a great victory against Cork.

"Tipp are always going to be title contenders. We know that. They'd a little blip earlier in the year but they're still going to be a serious outfit this year."

Irish Independent

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