Gilligan to carry on for another season


CLARE STAR Niall Gilligan has confirmed he will be hurling for the Banner County in 2009 after deciding to prolong his intercounty career by another season.

The 32-year-old Sixmilebridge clubman announced his arrival as a forward of real calibre with three points from play against Tipperary in the successful 1997 All-Ireland final and he has racked up over 50 championship appearances since then, netting 20 goals in the process.

Under Ger Loughnane, Clare retained their Munster crown in 1998 and although success has been thin on the ground since, auctioneer Gilligan is optimistic about the coming year as he sets his sights on another provincial final appearance.

Free-scoring Gilligan confirmed: "It's a kind of a drug to me and I'll go back and see how it goes.

"Looking at the draw and what's going on in Cork, you'd fancy Tipperary to come through that game and, the way we look at it, Tipp would be favourites in a Tipp v Clare match.

"But if we could catch them we would have a right chance to win a Munster title because we would look at ourselves as being on a par with Waterford and Limerick.

"That's what our aim would be and while Kilkenny are still a long way ahead of everybody else, we would be thrilled to win a Munster championship."

Clare contested last year's provincial decider at the Gaelic Grounds but gave themselves too much to do against rampant Tipperary as a second half fightback fell short.

Gilligan, who hit 10 points when Clare lost to Cork in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final, reflected on last year: "We were disappointed with how we performed last year but you still can't beat Munster final day.

"Playing in All-Ireland finals is great but to play in a Munster final is still a fantastic thing and there were 45,000 people in the Gaelic Grounds last summer for the Tipp game."

Gilligan's decision to commit his services for another season is another massive boost to manager Mike McNamara after long-serving Colin Lynch and Alan Markham both confirmed before Christmas that they are available for selection this year.