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Ballyea's Stan Lineen in action against Broadford's Padraig Taylor during Round 2 of the Clare Cup. Broadford will face Clonlara in Round 3, while Ballyea will make the trip to Inagh to play Inagh-Kilnamona. Photograph by Natasha Barton

Championship warm-ups get hotter in Round 3

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Broadford v Clonlara
at Broadford, Friday, 7.30pm

A first derby meeting since the intermediate champions unceremoniously knocked Clonlara out of last year’s championship and soared into a senior quarter-final against another neighbour Sixmilebridge. Both, whether by necessity or choice, have delved deep into their panels for new hands to potentially be put up ahead of the championship so this local duel should tell the respective managements a lot more about their strength-in-depth.
Of course, Clonlara’s Jimmy Browne is manager of Broadford but it may not be enough to work the oracle once more as Clon’s new-look side appear hungry and determined to maintain their perfect start.

Inagh-Kilnamona v Ballyea
at Inagh, Friday, 7.30pm

If asked to name two sides that would be pointless after two rounds, one would hardly have chosen this pair. That said, aside from Ballyea’s 2019 league burst, such is their dual inter-county commitments that they have been content to ply their trade in Division 1B of the Clare Cup.
With a guaranteed two year stint in the top flight however, they will need to make the most of their new surroundings and will certainly feel that their fledgling side should have gotten something out of the Broadford game last time out.
It has been even more frustrating for Inagh-Kilnamona who were agonisingly edged out Cratloe at the death. In addition, injuries to key players have diminished Ballyea’s options but even with a lessened treatment table, it is Inagh-Kilnamona that will be expected to finally get off the mark.

Kilmaley v Cratloe
at Kilmaley, Friday, 8pm

Three successive championship victories in as many seasons have cemented Cratloe’s Indian sign over Kilmaley, with a solitary 2019 Clare Cup win in riposte barely registering.
This tie won’t hold any great significance either as only the winner can realistically make a concerted bid for the Clare Cup title.
Kilmaley are the holders but should be more concerned about trying to rediscover their groove for a gruelling championship grouping. Cratloe, having pipped Inagh-Kilnamona to the post last time out, do have the addition of the Collins brothers, Sean and Podge from inter-county footballing action, albeit the latter is unlikely to have recovered from a hamstring issue that forced him off at half-time in Saturday’s Clare v Kerry tie.

Sixmilebridge v Crusheen
at Sixmilebridge, Thursday, 7.30pm

Similar to Kilmaley and Cratloe, it’s winner-takes-all in this encounter in terms of remaining in contention for the Clare Cup crown as both sides have only registered a win from two matches.
Crusheen are clearly trying to inject new blood into their established core while Sixmilebridge are also trying to flesh out their options ahead of their historic championship plea-for-three.
After a stuttering start against Feakle, the back-to-back champions ground into gear last time out and will only improve as they look to gather further momentum over the final three matches in July.

Clooney-Quin v Feakle
at Clooney, Friday, 7.30pm

The only top flight tie with championship connotations after being pooled together in Group 4 of the Canon Hamilton race alongside Éire Óg and Newmarket-on-Fergus. There’s already plenty of history between the sides as it was Clooney-Quin’s extra-time smash-and-grab championship victory in 2017 that catapulted Clooney-Quin to the brink of a county title and a spiralling Feakle to intermediate. Fast forward two years and a resurgent Feakle exacted full revenge to knock Clooney-Quin out of the championship despite being down to 14.
This is unlikely to preserve that dramatic soap-operatic narrative but with Feakle, holding a perfect record so far, Clooney-Quin do have the opportunity to put a spanner in their opponent’s tilt at a Clare Cup crown.

Having seen their county final dreams shattered by Sixmilebridge last September, O’Callaghan’s Mills could take their frustrations out on the ‘Bridge’s second string in Division 1B of the Clare Cup this Saturday after raiding for nine goals in opening victories over senior duo Éire Óg and Clarecastle.
24 hours earlier, a top-of-the-table clash between St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield and Whitegate will provide a good barometer for both after also commencing their 1B campaigns on a winning note.
The remaining table toppers Newmarket-on-Fergus host neighbours Wolfe Tones while it’s intermediate against senior in two expectedly close ties as Clarecastle host Smith O’Brien’s and Éire Óg travel to Dr. Daly Memorial Park in Tulla.
In Division 2, Inagh-Kilnamona and Clooney-Quin’s second strings lock horns to keep pace with Scariff and Tubber at the summit. The Division 3 league table will also become a lot clearer as two perfect records have to fall in the derbies between Ogonnelloe and Bodyke on Friday and Crusheen against Killanena the following day.
The clash of Inagh-Kilnamona’s third team and Doora/Barefield’s reserves is the tie of the round in Division 4 while the outcomes of Scariff versus Sixmilebridge and Smith O’Brien’s trip to Kilmaley will go a long way to deciding the Division 5 frontrunners.

by Eoin Brennan

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