By Peter O’Connell
BEFORE they head for Sunday’s senior football second round game against Cratloe in Gurteen at 1pm, Cooraclare might have to indulge in some football recognition trials. Will they recognise a size five football when they see one?
Cooraclare have played just one championship match this year, defeating Kilrush in Labasheeda on August 3. Since then, they have played no competitive football at all.
Cratloe haven’t played any senior football either since beating Kilmurry Ibrickane in their opening championship fixture. Of course, they have hardly been able to lay down their hurleys for more than a day or two, with six Cratloe players part of Clare’s All-Ireland senior winning panel, with Podge Collins and Enda Boyce also in the All-Ireland U-21 winning squad.
Throw in two rounds of senior club hurling over the last two weekends and an U-21 Football Championship fixture on Monday of this week and it’s fairly clear that Cratloe haven’t been idle.
Whether they are sufficiently football sharp though is what concerns manager Colm Collins.
“It’s down to football and whether or not we’re at the level needed. We’re obviously very fit. They’ve played a high level of hurling all year long, so if our football is good enough we should be in good shape. But that’s the worry; that we won’t have enough football played. We’ve a few sessions this week where they’ll get plenty ball handled and, as I said, physically they’re in great shape,” Collins said.
The winners will play Kilrush in the quarter-final on Sunday week, while the losers face Clondegad next Friday for a second chance at reaching the last eight.
“It’s a very important one to win. I’d have tremendous respect for Cooraclare. They’ve a lot of good players. If we could possibly get over Cooraclare, we’d have access to the players full time. It would be a real luxury, which is a thing most club coaches take for granted. If we do make progress, it would be our first time ever having full access to the players. But we’ve got to do the business next Sunday first,” Collins added.
Cooraclare mentor Michael Garry said securing a definite date for the game has helped to focus the West Clare club.
“We got ourselves right for the Kilrush game and we’ve to build that up again now. That’s what we’ve been trying to do for the last two weeks, once we had a date for the game. We needed to get the date. It took us a long time to get it. We’ve the date got now, so we can hopefully build them up for it,” he said.
“It’s 11 weeks since we played Kilrush. It’s hard to keep the players fresh. We’ve done different things to keep them fresh. We’ve a few niggly injuries but, hopefully, they will clear up. Cratloe have had a long year with the hurling but their fitness will definitely be a major factor. We can only bring our own game to it and see how it goes,” Garry added.
Meanwhile, several additional fixtures are down for decision this weekend including the U-21 B final, with Kilmihil playing Naomh Eoin/O’Curry’s on Sunday in Doonbeg at 3pm. Miltown play Doora-Barefield in the U-21 A football semi-final on Saturday in Cooraclare.
Either Wolfe Tones or St Breckan’s will be an intermediate club come Saturday, with the clubs meeting in the relegation final at 1pm in Gurteen.
Killimer will play Clarecastle in Kilmihil, also on Saturday at 1pm, with the winners qualifying for the junior B semi-final.
The draws for the semi-finals of the senior football and hurling championships will be made at 6pm at Clareabbey on Monday evening.