Paul Flanagan: Next two weeks will tell where Clare hurlers are at

As a Clare hurler who teaches in Ardscoil Rís in Limerick, Paul Flanagan has spent plenty of time behind enemy lines of late.

e’s been nearly 10 years in the school helping them to Harty and Croke Cup triumphs and has been around long enough to see some of his former students, like Aaron Gillane, make it to the top of the game.

The likes of Cathal O’Neill, Conor Boylan and Peter Casey have also featured for John Kiely’s men. It made the cut of their heavy defeat to Limerick a few weeks back that little bit deeper.

“From a performance point of view, it was disappointing,” Flanagan said at the announcement that he would act as the GAA’s Irish language ambassador for 2023.

“Every day you go out you want to give your best and that wasn’t our best.

“If you looked at the league campaign between this year and last year, it’s probably the most disappointing we’ve been over those fixtures.

“In saying that you just have to put the head down and see what did work and what didn’t work and just put the head down again.

“Limerick have started . . . look, Limerick, for a team that have come back from last year, they’ve started this league campaign really strongly and eked out a good victory against Galway so they’re moving really well.

“I think we have work to do to get there over the next few weeks. It was great to get a few more guys back into it against Wexford and we got some good momentum from that game but I think the next two weeks will give a good idea of where you’re at.”

Clare went some way to putting that right when they blew Wexford away on their next outing, away at Chadwicks Wexford Park.

It was Flanagan’s seasonal return along with John Conlon, Tony Kelly and Ryan Taylor.

Shane O’Donnell is also expected to come back, adding to the sense that the Banner County are trying to time their run ahead of a hectic schedule.

Galway are next on the list this Sunday in Cusack Park, Ennis with a final outing away to Cork.

Should Clare win both of those games they would be in a league semi-final and potentially a final, which would come just a fortnight before their Munster Championship opener at home to Tipperary and the six-week block that will decide their summer fate.

“I think that it is something to maybe look at from here on out, that that window between a league final and the first round of championship is probably close enough.

“At the same time, a lot of teams would be able to treat that as a real rehearsal for championship anyway so you could look at it in both ways.

“The only thing you would say from last year that we have learned is that the campaign is gruelling and it is quite intense, particularly in Munster.

“That’s what we have experience of. So you need to make sure that you’re right to go for championship.”

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