WHILE playing a Cusack Cup final on the last Sunday in November might not enthuse too many people, the fact that seven in-a-row seeking Kilmurry-Ibrickane are playing Miltown adds significant interest to the game.
Ironically the last club, other than Kilmurry, to win the Cusack Cup was Miltown in 2010. Throw in the fact that they are the only Clare club to beat Kilmurry in the last two years in league or championship and it’s clear that Sunday’s final could be interesting, whatever the weather or the time of year.
Kilmurry will be without Michael Hogan, who was red-carded in last Sunday’s semi-final win over Doonbeg, while Darragh Sexton is unlikely to be fit. He has not featured since picking up an injury in the county final on October 29.
Another aspect that neither Kilmurry or Miltown will have forgotten is their play-off game in Doonbeg on September 30. Miltown won that game relatively easily, 2-13 to 0-12. It meant that they qualified for the Cusack Cup final and left Kilmurry facing Doonbeg in the semi-final. Ultimately the team that benefited most was Kilmurry, at least with respect to championship. That defeat seemed to stir them and they edged beyond Cratloe, after extra-time, in the county semi-final, while Miltown fell tamely to Clondegad at the same stage.
“It straightened us up a bit and it definitely got a little bit of focus back. We definitely needed something to get the focus right,” Kilmurry manager Aidan Moloney commented, ahead of the game in Cooraclare, which has a 2pm throw-in.
He acknowledged that playing Miltown in the final adds an an edge. “In Clare they are the only team to beat us in the last two years and they also drew with us earlier in the year in the Cusack Cup. If you lose, you don’t like to lose to the crowd next door, we will put it that way,” he added.
Miltown’s last senior game was six weeks ago in losing their October 15 county semi-final. Only they know how much work they have put in since but maintaining momentum during six inactive weeks is a virtually impossible. Eoin Cleary is not fit to play and Miltown will struggle for potency, although at times this year, Cormac Murray has excelled. He was quiet against Clondegad however and will be keen for a big hour this time. However, Miltown will be without other first choice players too and their depth will be tested.
Their manager, Michael Neylon, said that not having played for six weeks presents a challenge. “We put a decent emphasis on the Cusack Cup. We saw it as great preparation for championship and we worked hard. We’re undefeated so far but the six-week break does put a different perspective on it.
“We’d love if these games were played in the middle of the summer. The last Cusack Cup final we were in, in 2010, was played between two rounds of the championship. The timing was perfect because, in that case, it was a bounce back for us after a championship defeat.
“But we’ve got to work with the hand we’re dealt here and get ourselves in as good a position as possible to perform. There is always interest when Miltown and Kilmurry meet. Both sets of players get on great together but when the meet on the pitch, both sides love to come out on top.
“In recent years it has been extremely sporting and quite competitive. The games have been quite close. We’re hoping for an entertaining game and both teams will be putting everything into it,” Neylon continued.
Since losing heavily to Dr Crokes in the Munster club semi-final in Killarney, the Kilmurry club have won the minor B championship, played two U-21 championship games and qualified for the Cusack Cup final.
On the basis that Kilmurry will be significantly more match-sharp, they should retain their seemingly immovable grip on the Cusack Cup and pick up €2,000 from tournament sponsors, The Clare Champion.