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Fitzgerald hoping Clare can lift their levels again for double task which awaits them

By Declan Bogue

No matter what direction your logic and intuition might have been taking you, you can be sure that Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald was thinking differently.

Two scenarios – the first one, if Cork were unable to rediscover their ability to hit goals in the last half hour of the All- Ireland hurling Championship season, Clare would be senior All-Ireland champions right now. Round about the time you might be reading this, the party will have entered day three; more clubs to be visited, more big dinners, more drinks.

Not exactly the way you want your team to prepare for an All-Ireland Under-21 final on Saturday against Antrim.

The other scenario – you lose. Your young team are devastated and low on confidence, yet the drinks become downbeat and there would be a relaxing of the strict diets.

Then there is the third way – the one that transpired was a draw, which means they get back to business on Monday morning and everything remains in a state of heightened alert.

The best possible outcome in relation to this weekend's under-21 final? Not for Davy.

"No matter what, it's an occasion," says Fitzgerald.

"Like, these lads now they have to... after an All-Ireland it is unreal how you feel. Win, lose or draw. This is going to take them days and then they have to try to get up for next Saturday. And then they have to come back down again.

"Cork are going to be laughing at the fact we are still in the Under-21 final and we have to go again. But, you know, things have been pushed against us all year, as they were out there today, and we are still there. We are not gone any place yet."

The character of his young team appeals to the warrior spirit that Fitzgerald so excelled with as a player himself. Although the normal protocol for managers in these situations is to be sparing in your praise, he sets that to one side in his admiration for the group he has around him.

"No matter what happens I'm so proud of them. They've been going out week after week, playing Under-21 and senior, pushing it to the limit. I couldn't say enough about them. Will they get up to that height the next day? It will be extremely hard to be honest with you because the Under-21s will knock a lot out of them next week and then you have got to bring them back up again. There are only so many matches..."

He added: "In saying that, it wouldn't surprise me. These guys don't know when to quit. But it will be a big ask. If you ask me straight now, Cork probably have the initiative going into it."

Seventeen of his extended senior squad will be on the under-21 squad that faces Antrim in Semple Stadium. They are under the guidance once more of John Minogue and will be defending the title they won last year.

The task ahead for Antrim was always going to be stiff, but with a draw on Sunday, Clare have the ideal preparation, no matter what line Davy takes on it.

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