Clare must improve to stay in Division 1A

Two-time All-Ireland champion Jamesie O'Connor has been speaking to Newstalk Sport

Clare must improve to stay in Division 1A

©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Clare need to register a win in the Allianz National Hurling league this weekend, if they want to avoid a relegation play-off, according to Clare legend Jamesie O'Connor.

The Banner got their title defence off to a bad start last weekend, shipping a 0-21 1-11 defeat to Cork on Saturday evening.

Two-time All-Ireland winner Jamesie O'Connor says that Cork, who captured the Munster Senior League earlier in the year, looked visibly sharper throughout the contest.

"Cork certainly had the better of it in the first half. In the second half, Clare missed the penalty, it was saved. Cork’s newcomers really impressed me, I thought Shane Kingston was very good."

Image: Cork's Shane Kingston in action during the 2017 Munster Senior Hurling League.

"The players that Cork have brought in, they look athletic, they've got pace and with experience, these guys are going to be the better for it."

"1-11 at this level, we simply didn't put enough scores on the board and we were really chasing it from a long way out."

Clare are operating under new management this season, following the appointment of joint managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor to replace Davy Fitzgerald.

O'Connor said retaining their Division 1A status will be a target for the new Clare bosses and a win against All-Ireland finalists Kilkenny this weekend would significantly boost their chances of doing that.

"The boys' (Moloney and O'Connor) credentials speak for itself, they're well respected and well regarded. There probably was a need for a fresh voice in the dressing room. And the lads know they're going to be judged on their performances ultimately in the championship."

Image: Jamesie O'Connor in possession for Clare in 1997.

"You want to stay in Division 1A if at all possible. At the moment, if you're to look at things from the first round of the league, it looks like it could be very well be Clare and Dublin in that relegation play-off down the line."

"But one win changes everything and Clare know they've Kilkenny in Cusack Park on Sunday. If they get a win there, suddenly things are looking up. Donal and Gerry would be the first to acknowledge that the performance on Saturday night wasn’t good enough and that they're gonna have to improve."

Kilkenny approach this fixture in similar circumstances, having suffered a one-point defeat to Waterford last weekend. Their defence looked vulnerable at times, conceding a goal from Patrick Curran while Shane Benett was unlucky to see his effort kept out by Eoin Murphy. 

But despite Waterford's power up front, Kilkenny managed to stay in touch and O'Connor warns that Clare will have to produce an assured performance if they are to get a result this Sunday.

"Clare know it (the game) will be more physical, more direct and it'll pose a different challenge to the one Cork did. Clare will also be conscious that they beat Kilkenny in the league semi-final (last year) quite well. Kilkenny as well, with a loss under their belts aren't going to come to Ennis and roll over. Clare are going to have to turn up with their 'A' game if they're gonna get something out of this weekend."

Image: Padraig Walsh clearing the ball for Kilkenny during last weekend's clash with Waterford.

"The word is that the Ballyea players won't be available this weekend and that's understandable with the All-Ireland club final down the line. So, if you take Tony Kelly's contribution (0-06) out of Clare’s 11 points last weekend, someone is gonna have to step up and make a big contribution on the scoreboard."

"You're going to need at least 20 points to beat Kilkenny and that’s going to be a challenge."