An eye on the high flying Banner'

GAA: National Football League

Colm Collins' Clare will welcome Mayo to Cusack Park on Sunday afternoon with promotion to Division One of the National Football League up for grabs.

This year is Collins' eighth successive season in charge of the Banner County football side and he has built a very impressive reputation during his tenure in the position. He's currently the longest serving senior inter-county football manager in the game, with the same county.

Last year was the first year that Clare failed to win a championship game under his guidance, when they were beaten by three points by a Tipperary side who went on to claim a surprise Munster title later that season.

Trying to make that a one-off will be a tough task for Collins as his side take on Kerry in the Quarter-Final of the Munster Championship in a fortnight's time, and with no back door this year, it's lights out for the losers of that one for the season.

Getting one over on Mayo and gaining promotion to the top flight of league football would be a major coup for Clare, they have been going about their business in an efficient manner so far this season.

In the group stages of the competition they picked up two wins from three games, with their one defeat coming in their final round robin game against Cork. The Rebels needed to secure a much bigger victory than their narrow one point win to overtake Clare in the standings, so the Bannermen progressed to Sunday's game against Mayo as runners-up in Division Two South.

Consistency of selection

Collins' has been markedly consistent with his team selection all through the league this season, with 12 players starting all three games and three more starting two each.

One of those to start two games for Clare is a familiar face to Mayo football followers, with Ballyhaunis' Eoghan Collins playing his inter-county football with the Bannermen for the past number of years and the East Mayo man started both of Clare's first two games in the league this season, with wins over Laois and Kiladare.

St Joseph's (Milltown ) marksman - Eoin Cleary - has been Clare's main threat on the scoreboard, kicking 0-21 over their three games, with 13 of those points coming from placed balls.

The other man who has made the headlines of late for Clare is David Tubridy, with the Doonbeg man becoming the top scorer in all league football recently. He didn't start their opening day win against Laois, but did knock over a point coming off the bench in that one and has 1-12 to his name for their three games to date – 1-8 of that tally coming against Cork in the last outing.

Clare have scored 3-47 (56 points ) in their three games so far, an average of 18.66 points per game, so Mayo know they will have to be hitting the target at a decent clip to see off the Munster men – while they have conceded 0-47 in those three games, an average of 15.66 points a game.

From goalkeeper up through their half-forward line, Clare have had a very settled look with 11 of those 12 positions filled by the same men for all three games. Stephen Ryan has been the man between the posts for all games so far, with Ciaran Russell, Cillian Brennan, Cian O'Dea, Sean Collins and Daniel Walsh starting all three games as part of their back six unit; with Eoghan Collins getting the nod for two games and Kevin Harnett their last outing in their defensive unit.

In the middle of the park Darren O'Neill and Cathal O'Connor have been manning that area, while ahead of them, Darragh Bohannaon, Eoin Cleary and Pearse Lillis have been a consistent sight on their half-foward line. Gavin Cooney has been their constant member of the forward line in all three games, while David Tubridy and Keelan Sexton have both got two starts, with Jamie Malone and Joe McGann both starting one game.

The Banner side have a consistency of selection built into them so far this season and Collins will have them well prepped for what Mayo have coming - but will it be enough to derail Mayo's drive back towards Division One for 2022?


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