To say Broadford enjoyed their intermediate championship success would be an understatement.
The club had been knocking on the door in recent years and the players themselves always felt they were of the standard. They now have a chance to take on the Cork champions for a place in the Munster intermediate final and prove their worth once more.
Feakle came desperately close to bringing the championship home to Clare last year and Broadford will believe they can go one better.
Manager Tom Howard says his side are really looking forward to a tough challenge.
“It’s a great thing to look forward to for sure. We had a great week’s celebration [after the county final] but after that fellas put their head down and trained very hard. We’re excited to compare ourselves to the best from Cork, and if we’re successful then you’re into a Munster final.
“We went back training the Saturday after the county final, and while there was a bit of sweating to be done for sure, we settled into training again pretty quickly. We have gotten a great response from the lads and it is definitely of the same intensity, or even higher, than before the county final.
“Getting straight into the semi-final was a bonus for us. The incentive to get to a Munster final is right there for us. Two games down the line we could be in an All-Ireland semi-final. You get dizzy at the thought of making progress so quick but there is a real incentive,” Tom said.
Tom qualified that statement by insisting his side are under no illusions whatsoever that the Cork champions are formidable opponents, with top-class players.
“We played Charleville in a challenge game last year and they played Fr O’Neill’s in last year’s intermediate semi-final. There are lines of form there. They’re obviously a very good team and we are under no illusions there, but we are also a good quality team.
“We have had two looks at them this year, we managed to see the video of Kilworth and themselves in the Cork final as well as going to Kilfinane to see their game with Blackrock. They were two totally different games. They displayed all their skill in the more open Kilworth game but then showed plenty of heart and grit in a smaller field and in a battle of wits. They have spirit as well as class.
“They have a formidable inside forward line, particularly Declan Dalton and Billy Dunne. Dunne is a real poacher, whereas Dalton is powerful and a top-class hurler. We have to be wary of them but for certain when forwards like that play, they’ll get scores.
“We have to back ourselves at the other end of the field too though. We have forwards that are well capable racking up scores too. We have plenty of goal-getters too and we’re not shy in that department. We have a good spread of talent in the team and we’re not too really reliant on one player,” Tom believes.
While Castletownroche is the stated venue for this Sunday’s clash, Tom says Fr O’Neill’s have expressed a desire to the Munster Council to change the fixture to Midleton. While Tom says the stated venue is closer to home, and the uncertainty as to where the fixture will be on is far from ideal, his team’s preparations are going well and won’t be impacted.
Tom says he’s more concerned with getting things right on the field and coming to terms quickly with an opposition they aren’t familiar with.
“The problem is that we don’t have many benchmarks to know how good they are or how good we are, but we will try to negate their strongpoints and see where we stack up. It’s a real journey into the unknown.
“Morale has never been lacking with our lads, though. Everything we ask them to do, they do. There has been a confidence boost from winning the county final though. I think it was more the manner of the victory in that we were dead and buried and came from behind to win that gave us a psychological boost. These fellas know that they’re never dead. They have always found that extra little bit in games, and at this time of the year – that’s very important. It’s not often the best hurling team that wins matches at this time of year – it can often boil down to who wants it the most. I’ll be confident our lads won’t leave anything in the dressing room and will give it a good shot,” Tom insisted.