Ahead of Sunday’s Clare SFC final, former Clare U-21 manager and Clare FM analyst Joe Garry runs the rule over Kilmurry Ibrickane and Cratloe and assesses how each side will approach a mouth watering tie.
And then, there were two.
After 16 championship games, played at six venues , two memorable semi-finals, all played under the dark shadow of Covid, the two best club sides in Clare will contest this weekend’s final.
I was one of the fortunate few that got to witness both semi-final contests. A total of 7-60 over the two games, (6-38 from play) made for terrific entertainment but will have given both Aidan Moloney and Colm Collins plenty food for thought. I can’t see scoring chances being as flaithiúilach this weekend. Both camps know that the concession of 3-11 or indeed 1-15 will, in all likelihood, derail any thoughts of housing Jack for the winter.
It’s easy to surmise that Marty McMahon’s return, after suspension, to the D in front of David Sexton’s goal will seriously dent Cratloe’s scoring options, but Marty is around long enough to know that if he is overly busy, Cratloe hold the upper hand. David Sexton hasn’t put a foot wrong and is arguably KIB’s player of the year. Cathal McInerney will surely claim another top score award and his free taking has been right on the money, but he will encounter a miserly defence on Saturday, ably marshalled by the Hickeys and Mark Killen, who give up very little in terms of scoreable frees. With Marty closing doors before others realise they were open, Darragh Sexton and Diarmuid King will have extra license to test the defensive work of Conal O’Hanlon and Shane Neville. O’Hanlon was particularly impressive in the second half against St. Breckans and led the Cratloe charge. His ability to kick frees from distance will add greatly to Cratloe’s scoring threat but Colm Collins will probably require at least six players to contribute in the scoring stakes. Podge was guilty of overplaying the ball on occasion but his goal was a thing of beauty and it will be interesting to see if Ciaran Morrissey will be given the onerous task of curbing his influence on Saturday. Podge has the ability to conduct the Cratloe orchestra and like Keelan in the KIB camp, when he plays well, the others around him invariably do too.
The GPS trackers will be on overdrive with the midfielders on offer this weekend. Aidan McCarthy does an amount of unheralded work, is hugely honest and has become a real leader for the Bricks. Daniel Walsh had a rather quiet semi-final but stole the show in the previous round against Éire Óg and is likely to add to his growing reputation. On the blue side, Diarmuid Ryan is a safe pair of hands and along with O’Hanlon, Cratloe will not be found wanting in either athletic or footballing stakes. Expect Billy Sheehan and Keith King to make fourth quarter appearances, probably at the same time. If midfield can add to the scoring tally for either side, it could well be a discernible advantage.
Dermot Coughlan is to KIB as Podge is to Cratloe. Both players have the innate ability not only to spot gaps but possess the skillset to exploit them. Dermot’s three points the last day out were kicked with a conviction that suggested he is on top of his game, which is great news for both club and county. Cratloe’s half back trio of Ógie, Seán Collins and Liam Markham are as good a unit as any nationwide, and will no doubt, be eager to have the KIB lads on the backfoot, but few teams punish space in front of an opponent’s goal better than the Ibrickane boys so expect all six players in this clash, to pop up here, there and everywhere on Saturday.
Keelan Sexton remains the go-to player for Kilmurry. He is always a potential match winner and has developed his passing game considerably. David Collins is likely to be given man marking duties and the youngest of the Collins boys will, no doubt, relish the opportunity. Michael Brenann has been a real find for Cratloe and has not only solidified their defence, but is more than capable of kicking points from distance too.
Colm Collins and Aidan Moloney are two of the best managers in the game. Both will trust their players to make the correct decisions and neither will be afraid to go to the bench. Enda Coughlan’s role, whether from the start or from the bench will be telling. Will KIB press up on kickouts or drop to the “45 keeping Marty in the scuabadóir role at the back? Will Conor McGrath continue to operate on the 40 or be deployed in the inside line with Cathal McInerney? These are some of the many questions that we can ponder with anticipation as we await what will surely be a most intriguing and tactical contest.
In a game where extra time is very real possibility, Cratloe carry a little more momentum and will fancy themselves in a high scoring encounter. However, scores might well be very hard to come by and for that reason, I’m sticking with the neighbours to shade it, but only just.
Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane