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Time for Banner to learn from mistakes of the past – Bugler

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Bugler: Leader of a young side

Bugler: Leader of a young side

Bugler: Leader of a young side

HE became the first Clare hurler in six years to be honoured with an All Star award last winter, but Whitegate wing-back Brendan Bugler is almost embarrassed when you bring it up.

"Obviously, it was nice to get, but this is a totally new year with much bigger goals ahead," he stresses.

"It meant a lot, especially to my family, and it's probably something that I'll appreciate more in years to come, but right now I'm just after medals with the boys."

Tomorrow's Allianz Division 1A relegation battle with Cork is all that is consuming Bugler and Davy Fitzgerald's Clare right now – and with good reason.

Having made the jump from Division 1B last year, which earned them a league semi-final clash against Kilkenny, the Banner county desperately want to avoid an immediate drop back down.

As Clare selector Louis Mulqueen pointed out this week, the younger your inter-county hurling squad, the more you need to be mixing with the game's tiny elite, so getting relegated again would be a big setback to Clare's development and ambitions.

Bugler's barnstorming performances from right half-back last year not only earned him that prestigious All Star, but also marked him out as one of their new leaders.

However, a new job in the midlands this year finds him living far from home. The University of Limerick graduate is now teaching woodwork and technical drawing in Colaiste Iosagain in Portarlington – Laois football heartland.

But living in Portlaoise, where he shares a house with Offaly and Birr hurler Sean Ryan, means he's never short of hurling conversation. It has given him quite a commute to county training, but Bugler is not complaining.

"The job is great, I'm really enjoying it and the road is good; the lads (based) in Cork have a much tougher drive to training than me," he insists. "I go up and down on Tuesday nights, I'm home on Friday night anyway and I can do my gym work locally in Portlaoise, so it's really not a problem."

Even if it was, you get the feeling that 'Bugs', as his team-mates call him, wouldn't moan, so great is his enthusiasm for the game and his county.

Unlike many of his younger team-mates who have had U-21 and minor success, playing for the Banner has, as yet, yielded him little glory. But he did pocket a Fitzgibbon medal in 2011, when he was part of a star-studded UL team that included Kilkenny's Kieran Joyce and PJ Delaney, Offaly's Shane Dooley and Brian Carroll, Cork's Pa Cronin, Galway's David Burke, Tipp's Paddy Stapleton and Limerick's Seamus Hickey.

Bugler is not a huge fan of the current six-team league format, which makes it hard for teams to experiment because of the cost of the tiniest slip-up.

Clare have stuttered twice – they were beaten by a late Waterford free first time out and pipped by a point by Kilkenny – but it was their victory over Cork which has most resonance now.

They made a sensational second-half comeback down in Pairc Ui Rinn, causing the sceptics to argue that Clare will hardly repeat the dose tomorrow.

"We certainly don't see it like that," Bugler says. "That league game will have no effect on what will happen between us now.

"We could have been beaten the last day. Cork didn't take all their chances and missed a few goals and then we just got into it, scored 10 points, got the momentum and got more confidence in attack."

After leading the table, Clare's subsequent loss to Kilkenny and a particularly heavy defeat by Tipp last time out has once again raised questions about their maturity and resilience.

And Bugler, tellingly, says the latter wasn't just immediately wiped from the memory bank.

"Tipp hurled very well against us, but you don't just try to forget it, you actually try to use it because if you're not learning from your mistakes, then you're not improving."

Irish Independent