13 teams will make their bid to be crowned the 2019 Clare SFC champions when the first round gets underway this weekend.
We have profiled each of the teams involved as the countdown to the opening game gathers pace.
St Joseph’s Miltown
Last two years: 2017 saw Miltown just fall short at the semi-final stage as they lost out to Clondegad. They atoned for that last year as victory over Ennistymon in the decider gave them a second title since 2015.
Players Out for Round One: Seanie Malone (knee injury), Colin Hehir (travel).
Key Men: County duo Eoin Cleary and Gordon Kelly will be central cogs at either end of the field. Kelly continues to defy Father Time with outstanding displays while Cleary consistently justifies his rating as one of the top forwards in the province. With Conor Cleary, Cormac Murray, Oisin O’Looney and Sean O’Brien all providing real leadership, the champions have plenty to call on.
Manager: David O’Brien
What they said: “Our target is just to make sure that the lads keep improving. They have improved year on year and we would just be hoping that it will continue in 2019. If that happens then hopefully that will see positives results follow. Having the Cusack Cup final before getting to championship was a big game for us to get because it was the first time we had the majority of the panel available to us and we needed that before getting into the championship run. Everything has picked over the last few weeks so that is the real bonus we got out of it”.
Last two years: 2017 saw Kilmihil crowned intermediate champions to make their return to the senior ranks. They went on to survive last year’s cull with victory over Wolfe Tones to secure their status before contesting the Senior B final.
Players Out for Round One: Mikey Keating (knee injury), David Coughlan (travel).
Key Men: Martin O’Leary has been in brilliant form in the early part of the season and he will carry the main scoring burden along with David Egan. Ciaran Downes and David Lernihan are exciting young players and they will be hoping to continue their progression. Veterans like Alan Normoyle and David Ryan will have big roles to play while Jack Browne will bring a physical element.
Manager: Mark O’Connell
What they said: “All our focus is on that first round clash with Miltown. They are a formidable outfit and are the reigning county and Cusack champions with huge talent all over the field. We know it will be a really tough game for us up first taking on the best team in the county. It was great to avoid being one of the five that made the drop last year and we contested the Senior B final so that was a positive. We are improving but Miltown have huge experience. Our team are quite young and wouldn’t have played an awful lot of senior championship games but we are looking forward to the challenge”.
Last two years: The Shams were operating in the intermediate ranks in 2017 after dropping out of the top tier 12 months previously. They almost got back up at the first time of asking but lost out to Kilmihil in the final. They made up for that in 2018 as victory over Kildysart saw them claim the intermediate title and a place in the senior championship.
Players Out for Round One:
Key Men: County men Stephen Ryan and Gearoid O’Brien will look to lead from the front for the Shams while Liam Madigan and Darragh Bolton are also main cogs. Matthew Moloney’s role at centre-back will be crucial in keeping their shape.
Manager: Graham Shine
What they said: “We only started thinking about championship from the time that the league final finished. We can only look at it on a one game at a time basis and our immediate focus now is on the challenge that Naomh Eoin/O’Curry’s will bring. Winning the league title was a great bonus but we have parked that now and all eyes are on that first round game”.
Last two years: There is no form line to draw on for the newly formed group team but they will be hoping that underage progression can transfer to the senior ranks.
Players out for Round One: Gearoid Lynch (Naomh Eoin, ankle injury) and Gearoid Lynch (O’Curry’s, ankle injury), Alex Harvey (travel), Eoin Troy (travel), Lorcan Lynch (shoulder injury), Douglas Lynch (travel).
Key Men: Sean Haugh, Thomas Clancy and Eoin Brew have all been central figures for O’Curry’s and will look to carry that through. Naomh Eoin have a wealth of young talent to call on with dangerous forwards like Conor Magner, Owen Lynch and Mark McQuaid all capable of doing damage.
Manager: Joe Garry
What they said: “It is a new adventure for everyone and it means we are a bit of an unknown quantity. We will see where it takes us but we will not know where we stand for any day out until the club games have been played the previous day. We have the potential and plenty good footballers but we will not be able to assess what state we are in until the evening before every game”.
Last two years: The Bricks put titles back to back in 2017 with victory over Clondegad in the decider. That title was relinquished last year as their bid for a third in a row was ended by Ennistymon at the semi-final stage.
Players Out For Round One: Mark McCarthy (arm injury), Daniel Walsh (collarbone injury), Keelan Sexton (travel, return date TBC).
Key Men: County duo Keelan Sexton and Dermot Coughlan will have huge roles to play while the emerging talent of Adam O’Connor, Diarmuid King, Caoilfhionn O’Dea and Daniel Walsh will inject a new energy. The old guard will backbone their challenge with the likes of Martin McMahon, Keith King, Ian McInerney, Enda Coughlan, Shane Hickey and Stephen Moloney all bringing huge experience to the table.
Manager: Aidan Moloney
What they said: “We are hoping to improve this year and we have some younger players coming through that will hopefully freshen up the team. We could do with the youthful legs and it will add some pace to the team. We have a lot of seasoned campaigners that are still plenty good but the injection of youth will help freshen it up. We are delighted with the effort those younger lads are putting in and they will make a real contribution as the year goes on”.
Last two years: 2017 saw Lissycasey bow out at the third round stage at the hands of Ennistymon. 12 months ago they were battling relegation and were forced all the way to the last trapdoor before getting over St Breckan’s to avoid the drop.
Players Out For Round One: Jimmy Kelly (Achilles injury).
Key Men: Lissycasey will look to county man Conor Finnucane to take on the chief scoring mantle while Niall Kelly will be an able deputy for support. Killian Normoyle will direct proceedings from between the posts while Gerry Moran and Matt O’Shea will be key figures in the middle third.
Manager: Ger Kelly
What they said: “We are really looking forward to the championship because it was a long year waiting for it to come around. Our hope would be to still be hanging around come the business end of the year. Our league form is not really a concern at this stage and we will just have to park that. We had a lot of injuries earlier in the year and lads away for different reasons so that is in the past now and our only concern now is what is to come over the next few weeks”.
Last two years: 2017 saw Corofin consolidate their status in the top tier for the second year running before bowing out in Round Three against Eire Óg. They went all the way to the quarter-finals last year when defeat to Kilmurry Ibrickane ended their season.
Players out for Round One: Gearoid Cahill (knee injury), Damien O’Loughlin (travel), Gearoid Kelly (hand injury).
Key Men: A lot of the responsibility will rest on the shoulders of Jamie Malone as Corofin look to build on last year’s progress. The absence of Gearoid Cahill will be felt as his scoring power has been important and he may return later in the championship. John Keane and Manus Malone will also have key roles.
Manager: Colm Clancy
What they said: “We are hoping to build on what we did last year and obviously staying up senior would be a priority for us. We need to work and be sure that we can compete against the top teams. Reaching a quarter-final last year was great experience for our lads and we got confidence from it. We are starting from scratch again now this year and it will be tough, especially with the lads we have out”.
Last two years: 2018 was a historic one for Ennistymon as they reached the final for the first time before coming out on the wrong side of the result against Miltown. They reached the last eight in 2017 before bowing out against Cratloe.
Players out for Round One: Oisin Vaughan (collar bone injury), Adam Ralph and Aaron McNulty (travel).
Key Men: Former county minor captain Cillian Rouine put in some brilliant displays in this year’s Cusack Cup and will be hoping to continue his development. Ross O’Doherty and Joe Dowling will help in keeping the scoreboard ticking over while Michael McDonagh, Laurence Healy and Sean Rouine will be central in keeping the defence tight.
Manager: Mark Shanahan
What they said: “We are not looking any further than the Doonbeg game. They had a very impressive win in the Garry Cup so we are just focusing on that one game and hopefully we can put in a performance that will see us get the right result on the day. We can’t dwell on last year because we need to make sure that we are focused on Doonbeg. We are in a difficult gtoup and it is going to be tight between the the three clubs that are in there. so getting out of it is our sole aim at the moment and the first step towards that comes now this weekend” – Noel Crowe (Selector).
Last two years: 2017 saw the Magpies bring eventual finalists Clondegad to a replay in the last eight before just falling short. It was relegation worries that concerned them in 2018 where victory over Lissycasey saw them secure their status in the top tier.
Players Out for Round One: Cian Clancy, Ronan Lillis, Conor Downes and Brian Behan (injured).
Key Men: David Tubridy is continuing to drive the charge as was evident in the Garry Cup final. The Dillon duo of Colm and Paul will be leaders while the evergreen Paraic Aherne will anchor the defence. Eamonn Tubridy provides a solid presence between the posts while Shane Ryan and Eoghan Tubridy offer a scoring threat.
Manager: Daniel Ryan
What they said: “We were competing away in the Garry Cup, and while we won it, this will be a big step up. Ennistymon are a proven side, last year’s county finalists, and they will be a big test. We have gone with a lot of young lads this year, and they have worked very hard so we’re going to with them again and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Last two years: The Sky Blues lost out to Miltown in the quarter-finals in 2017, and they again made the last eight in 2018 where Cratloe proved too strong.
Players Out For Round One: Niall Kelly and Mark Lillis (hand injuries).
Key Men: Pearse Lillis is back in the fold after a summer stateside and will have a key role to play. Sean O’Donoghue is also available which is a major boost while Ciaran O’Donoghue, Jack Morrissey and Padraic O’Donoghue will be central figures for the West Clare men.
Manager: David Russell
What they said: “It is new ground for Cooraclare really and we have a new younger squad so we will have to see how they adapt to it and hopefully they can peak at the right time. We are hoping we can get that right because they are a young bunch really. We have last year’s beaten finalists and our neighbours in the group with us so they will be two good tests. If you manage to come out of that group you will be in a really good position. It will be a really tough test but there is no dodging that in championship”.
Last two years: A semi-final showdown with Kilmurry Ibrickane in 2017 went all the way to extra-time before Cratloe lost out by the minimum. 12 months ago also saw them bow out at the semi-final stage after defeat to Miltown.
Players out for Round One: Mikey Hawes (hamstring injury).
Key Men: The old guard will continue to carry the charge as Cathal McInerney, Podge Collins, Sean Collins, Martin Ogie, Liam Markham and Mikey Hawes will be central figures. Young guns Diarmuid Ryan, Billy Connors and Rian Considine will offer plenty support too.
Manager: Colm Collins
What they said: “We have a few lads who are touch and go in terms of injury and we won’t know about them until closer to throw-in. We have the toughest group in it so it is going to be hard and it is very much a case of not looking beyond the first game against Clondegad. In terms of our league form, it is not something that is too much of a concern. We just don’t have some players available to us in the league and we just have to handle that. Hopefully we can regroup and be ready for championship”.
Last two years: 2017 saw Clondegad reach a first final in their history but they found Kilmurry Ibrickane too good in the decider. 12 months ago their title challenge came to an end at hands of Miltown in the quarter-finals.
Players Out for Round One: Joe Neylon (hand injury), James Murphy (shoulder injury).
Key Men: County duo Gary and Cillian Brennan will carry a huge amount of responsibility for the Ballynacally men and will be a handful for any opposition. Tony Kelly’s role in the forward line will also be vital, while getting Paudge McMahon back to full fitness will be a boost.
Manager: Mikey Hehir
What they said: “We’re confident that if we bring our own game that we will have enough for anybody. It’s a very tough group we’re in so it is all about trying to get a win in the first game. We have a bye in Round Two so we won’t kick a ball for a month after that. You’d like to be coming off a win and have that time then to get ready for
the second game.”
Last two years: Eire Óg have featured at the quarter-final stage in each of the last two seasons, with Kilmurry Ibrickane ending their campaign in 2017 while Ennistymon emerged victorious from their showdown 12 months ago.
Players Out for Round One: Einne O’Connor (travel), Conal O’hAiniféin, (doubtful with shoulder injury), Tadgh Connellan (arm injury).
Key Men: Eire Óg will be looking to Aaron Fitzgerald, Gavin Cooney and Eimhin Courtney in particular to lead their charge. Cooney and Courtney will be looking to do the scoring damage and will get plenty support from Philip Talty and Shane O’Donnell.
Manager: Paul Madden
What they said: “We are in an extremely difficult group with Cratloe and Clondegad. The other two teams will have played in Round 1 and I am not sure if that is an advantage or disadvantage for us in that they will be one game sharper than us. Our goal is just to try and get out of the group and then take it from there. It will be one game at a time and we cannot look beyond the group phase because it is going to be really tough”.