After the soothing return of club action last Monday with the commencement of the adult football leagues, it’s all systems go this weekend as all eight divisions of the hurling equivalents get underway.
With a guaranteed five match schedule based on last year’s fixtures, there isn’t any scope for knock-out stages this year as instead the table toppers in each division will be crowned champions.
There is no promotion or relegation either as it’s essentially a preparatory competition for the championship later in the summer when the stark reality of double demotion will come into force.
Clare Cup (Division 1A League)
Clonlara v Inagh-Kilnamona, at Clonlara, Saturday, 6.30pm
Two sides that underperformed in 2020 and require a big season to get them back on track. Injuries didn’t help Clonlara’s cause albeit that they did end up with Senior B honours whereas Inagh-Kilnamona bowed out all too meekly at the last eight stage. Consequently, it makes for an interesting opening match-up without their county contingents.
Cratloe v Clooney-Quin,
at Cratloe, Saturday, 1pm
The common hurt of recent county final defeats will count for very little for Cratloe (2018 and ’19) and Clooney-Quin (2017) ahead of another truncated championship season.
More worryingly is the fact that both didn’t even reach the knock-out stages of last year’s Canon Hamilton race which they hope to prove an an exception and not a trend. A home win is expected here.
Kilmaley v Ballyea,
at Kilmaley, Saturday, 6.30pm (W King)
A repeat of last year’s quarter-final that saw Ballyea knock their neighbours out of what initially appeared a promising championship, only for the 2016 and ’18 champions to stumble themselves against the Mills at the penultimate stage. A home league opener should allow reigning Clare Cup champions Kilmaley to exact revenge on the top flight newcomers and start building momentum again at least.
Broadford v Crusheen,
at Broadford, Sunday, 6.30pm
Having climbed the league and championship ranks over the past two seasons, Broadford receive an early acid test against hardened senior outfit Crusheen in their first year back in the top flight of the Clare Cup. It’s equally as significant for new manager Kevin Sheehan and Crusheen who require a jolt in the right direction having failed to register a win in 2020.
Feakle v Sixmilebridge
at Feakle, Sunday, 4.30pm
Sixmilebridge commence their three-in-a-row bidding season against a Feakle side that are looking to build on back-to-back feats of their own by reaching successive championship quarter-finals following their intermediate success in 2018. Their last meeting provided a dramatic finish as the ‘Bridge completed an eight point turnaround so a similar thriller would be welcome.
2018 Clare Cup champions Newmarket-on-Fergus get accustomed to life in the second tier with a tricky away tie in Killaloe against Smith O’Brien’s. Two divisions apart in the 2019 league standings, Tulla host newly promoted Wolfe Tones, Clarecastle travel to Whitegate while Sixmilebridge’s second string host St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield in a battle of the last two Division 2 champions. However, on paper at least, a match-up of two of last year’s championship success stories Éire Óg and O’Callaghan’s Mills should be the pick of the bunch in Division 1B.
by Eoin Brennan