Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Final Preview: Clara on their guard as they seek instant return to top flight

By Randal Scally

Clara manager Mark Scanlon is taking nothing for granted ahead of Sunday’s Tullamore Court Hotel SFC ‘B’ final against neighbours Tubber.

Admitting that last year’s relegation after a 63-year stay in the SFC ranks was a “shock to the system”, Scanlon is pleased with how his team has regrouped to put themselves within touching distance of an immediate return to the top flight.

“We don’t listen to any of this talk about us being favourites. The only thing we worry about is ourselves and how we can perform to the best of our ability,” he starts off by saying.

“Last year was a humbling experience for everyone in the club, but it wasn’t for the lack of effort. The players reacted well to it. They were back training within two weeks of us losing the relegation playoff to Bracknagh. That proved to me that they meant business and, to be fair to them, they haven’t put a foot wrong since. They’re driving the whole thing.

“But we know just how difficult it’s going to be against Tubber. It’s a local derby and they’re going to be primed for this final. We’ll have to be on our guard.”

Scanlon, who won a hat-trick of senior, minor and U21 championship medals with the club in 1993, has presided over a flawless campaign to date which has seen Clara win their four championship games by a combined total of 53 points. They’ve achieved this despite blooding 11 new players and the dual commitments of 11 more.

“It’s a bit of a juggling act when you have so many dual players, but we’re not the only club to have that problem. We’ve tried to work around it and it’s not something that has held us back.”

The Clara manager is full of praise for Tubber who raised eyebrows with their semi-final demolition of a fancied Ballycumber team.

“They have a great mix of youth and experience in their side and what can you say about Ciaran McManus, who I played with many moons ago? He’s an inspiration to everyone in that club. His commitment has been second to none down through the years. Bernard Allen is another fantastic player who will score against any opposition.

“Tubber have been knocking on the door for a while and will see this as their big chance to finally make the breakthrough.”

He continues: “We played Ballycumber in our second game and found them very difficult to break down. But Tubber were excellent in dismantling them. I was as surprised as anyone at how one-sided that game was. I couldn’t call it beforehand.”

With Clara also having made light work of Walsh Island in the other semi-final, Scanlon agrees that a good, competitive final is needed.

“The two semi-finals were very one-sided, but I don’t think you’ll get that again in the final. It’s a local derby so it’s bound to be close. Our target at the start of the year was to win this championship and that hasn’t changed,” concludes the Clara boss, whose backroom team includes his brother-in-law Brendan Lowry, Tony Dalton (coach), Caomhan Sheridan, Tom Naughton and James Keenan (goalkeeping coach).

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