GAA Football

Taking home advantage off Clare 'stupid' says Collins

Sean Collins, son of manager Colm, is Clare's only definite absentee in Saturday's All-Ireland SFC Qualifier against Armagh Picture by Seamus Loughran

CLARE manager Colm Collins says the rule that saw his team lose home advantage to Armagh despite being drawn out of the hat first “seems a bit stupid”.

The Banner county were paired with Kieran McGeeney’s side but as Clare played in Division Two this year, where they finished third, they concede the home venue to the Orchard, who won Division Three.

The sides will begin next year on the same level in the National League but because of the rule that exists where teams from Division One and Two automatically concede home advantage in a qualifier to those in the third and fourth tiers, Clare must travel to the Athletic Grounds.

“It seems a bit ridiculous because Armagh will be playing us in the league next year, and I’m sure Armagh and ourselves are pretty close in standard. It just seems a bit stupid.

“This whole thing [with Kildare] that’s happening at the moment has blown up. They [the GAA] could have done better in this whole area.

“A team like Monaghan playing a Division Four team, yeah, give them whatever advantage you can. But ourselves and Armagh, handing home advantage to Armagh… But sure listen, that’s what it is, you get on with it. It’s a field the same as every place else.”

His side squeezed past Offaly last weekend as they set about recovering from feeling the full force of Kerry’s new generation.

The Kingdom racked up 0-32 in their Munster semi-final clash, after which Clare were criticised for leaving themselves bare defensively in the face of such a vaunted challenge.

Various teams have enjoyed success by operating with a heavily-manned defence against Armagh in recent seasons, most notably Fermanagh this summer, and Down and Tyrone last year, but Collins says Clare will stick to their guns.

“I’m of the view that you play to win. That sounded all very naïve when we were on the receiving end against Kerry.

“But you play a game to suit the players you have. If I had players to suit that kind of game, that’s maybe what I’d have to play. The players I have are not as suited to those roles as other teams.

“We’re going to Armagh hoping to defend well, but we’ll have a crack at it and go to win the game, as opposed to playing not to lose.

“I don’t think you’ll see anything massively different about Clare on Saturday. It’s not something you can turn on a tap on. If you want to play like that, you have to practice it really well and everybody has to understand their role in that system.”

While they never came close to beating Kerry in either meeting, their games against the Kingdom in 2016 and their league form had suggested they were making headway in narrowing the gap in Munster.

Collins admits that the manner of their 22-point hammering at the beginning of this month was “an eye-opener” in terms of his side’s progression, but feels that it was as much down to their own performance as Kerry’s ruthless brilliance.

“I didn’t see it coming in any shape or form. I felt it was a game we could go after and win, or even if we didn’t win it, there wouldn’t be much in it.

“It was a tough day in the sense that we were coming into the game with a bit of optimism, thinking we were getting there.

“They were clinical on the day but we didn’t play particularly well. If we’d hit some of our own targets, even some of them, we’d have said ok but we didn’t hit any of them.

“We were down on everything, so it was a very poor display by us.”

They nicked a victory over Offaly last weekend in a game that they could have had wrapped up by half-time, with goalscorer Keelan Sexton striking the crossbar and then the post with two further clear-cut chances.

Yet they ended up sweating on it and only sealed the two-point win in stoppage time. A repeat of such profligacy will mean curtains.

“Often you don’t survive when you miss these chances. I don’t think we’ll survive in Armagh if we miss them, so it’s very important that we put them away against a team of Armagh’s quality,” said Collins, whose one certain injury absentee is his hamstrung son, Sean.

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