GAA Football

Patience key if Clare are to defeat Derry says Gary Brennan

Former Clare midfielder Gary Brennan believes the Banner have matured in recent times - and still believes massive improvement is required if they are to beat Derry on Saturday. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

PATIENCE will be key if Clare are to stand any chance of sending Ulster champions Derry out at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage on Saturday, says former Banner stalwart Gary Brennan.

Colm Collins’s men recovered from a shock penalty shoot-out defeat to Limerick in the Munster SFC at the end of April to advance to the last eight via the All-Ireland qualifiers, first beating Meath before a dramatic late comeback saw them topple fancied Roscommon 11 days ago.

That set up an immediate return to Croke Park, and a quarter-final date with a Derry side who have already left defending All-Ireland champions Tyrone, Monaghan and Donegal in their wake.

For that reason Rory Gallagher’s side will start as strong favourites to seal a semi-final berth against either Armagh or Galway, and Brennan admits it is “very hard” to pick out on a weakness in the Oak Leafs.

But the 2016 Allstar nominee, whose younger brother Cillian is part of the Clare panel, believes the Banner cannot afford to be lured into any traps – and must punish Derry when any opportunity arises.

“They’re provincial champions, and the feeling is it’s going to be a huge test,” said Brennan, who stepped away from the inter-county stage once and for all last year.

“But it’s exactly the kind of huge test Clare football wants and needs, rather than being out of the Championship and asking why we didn’t beat Roscommon.

“Clare have shown they can be very patient, moreso than the teams I played on. They’re quite happy to maintain possession, move it across the pitch and wait for gaps to appear. They’ll need to show that patience but when the opportunity is there to break fast, I would be encouraged by the Roscommon game when they really capitalised on those opportunities.

“To try and pick out a weakness in Derry now is very hard. They look so solid at the back and so pacy in attack, you’re wondering where you can hurt them. The one game you could look at is against Galway in the League, which cost them promotion, where the kick-outs, into a strong breeze, were under pressure.

“But even then they seem to have improved that greatly. If they’re not winning it clean in the middle of the field they’ve made a real battleground of the breaks and tend to come out on top of that. I don’t envy the lads having to pick out a weakness.

“They’re going to have be patient, control the ball well and try to minimise the turnovers.”

The game will pit Clare boss Collins against Rory Gallagher for the second time this year, after Derry were nine point winners when the counties met midway through their Division Two campaigns at the end of February.

That day in Ennis may have no bearing on the outcome of Saturday’s showdown, and Brennan feels past experience of coming up against Gallagher’s teams will stand to Collins.

“When Rory was with Fermanagh we played them a couple of times… I’m not going to say he knows exactly what Derry are going to do but he has an idea what a Rory Gallagher team might look like.

“Derry beat them in the League but Colm and his management team are generally very good at figuring out what went wrong and being able to improve things from game to game. Bar Kerry, we generally improve performance majorly.

“The question is, if Derry pose more questions than they did that day - and I’ve no doubt they will - will Clare be able to find the answers? Has Clare’s play come on enough to do the things required to take the oxygen out of Derry’s game?”

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