CUSACK CUP PREVIEWS
St Joseph’s Miltown v Kilmurry Ibrickane
This game will be as intriguing on the sideline as it will be between the four white lines at Hennessey Memorial Park. Both sides are under new management for 2019, with the nine-in-a-row chasing ‘Bricks back under the stewardship of Aidan ‘Horse’ Moloney. The defending county champions have also stayed local in their search for a new manager, with former boss David O’Brien succeeding his successor Michael Neylon in the role. In some ways it is a pity that this game is the opening one, as both sides will be without their inter-county contingent. That could be a defining factor in the contest, with the hosts minus the services of the likes of Eoin Cleary, Gordon Kelly, Kieran Malone and Cormac Murray. Their visitors will be without Keelan Sexton and the injured Dermot Coughlan, but will still be able to draw on the hugely experienced Enda Coughlan, Martin McMahon, Shane Hickey and Michael Hogan to name but a few. Miltown have the advantage of having a game under their belts already, having drawn with Doonbeg last weekend in the O’Gorman Cup while Kilmurry’s tie with Cooraclare was postponed due to the weather conditions. There is never much between these two and it is expected to be the same again, but the greater experience in the champion’s panel might just prove decisive.
Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane
Ennistymon v Eire Óg
These two have plenty history in the last 12 months, with the Townies taking the honours when they clashed in the Garry Cup final, before the North Clare men exacted revenge with victory in the championship quarter-final. No change on the sideline for either outfit with Mark Shanahan remaining in charge of last year’s beaten county finalists, while Paul Madden is at the helm once more for his native club. The loss of the county players for this game could also prove to be a defining factor, with Eire Óg worst affected with six, while Dean Ryan and Ciaran Russell have switched allegiances to the capital for 2019. Ennistymon will be looking to create a new midfield partnership for this game, with county hurlers David Fitzgerald and Cathal Malone unavailable. Both sides have been developing plenty underage talent, with the Townies claiming the 2018 U-21 title while Ennistymon were beaten in last year’s Minor A decider. Both sides will be eager to get their top flight campaigns off to a winning start, and with a new look Eire Óg likely to be on show, a more settled Ennistymon might just take the honours.
Cooraclare v Lissycasey
Former county star David Russell takes over the reins in Cooraclare for the 2019 season as the Sky Blues make their first appearance of the year. Lissycasey have a game already under their belts, as they opened their O’Gorman Cup campaign with victory over Kildysart last weekend. The home side will be without county stars Sean O’Donoghue and Pearse Lillis, while the word is that there is some uncertainty surrounding the futures of some of their more experienced players. They have produced plenty county underage stars in recent years though, with the likes of Fergal Donnellan, Mark Lillis and Ciaran O’Donoghue set to be central building blocks for the future. Lissycasey have more of a settled look about them in recent times, with dangerous forwards like Enda Finnucane and Francie Hayes liable to do damage if given time and space. With Ryan Griffin and Gerry Moran anchoring the defence, it could be a positive beginning to the new campaign for the men in maroon and white.
St Breckan’s v Clondegad
Double Oscar Traynor winning manager Donie Garrihy switches codes for 2019 as he takes over at his native St Breckan’s. The Doolin native comes in after a year which saw the club relegated to the intermediate championship for the first time since 2010, but they did maintain their status in the top tier of the league. Dale Masterson and Alan Sweeney will be out of bounds for them this weekend due to inter-county commitments, but there is still enough of young exciting talent for Garrihy to work with including the likes of the dangerous Joe McGann. Clondegad are once more guided by Mikey Hehir as they bid to continue a strong run of form in the competition. They have come close to winning it in recent times and are sure to be in the mix when the knockout stages roll around. After this weekend, they will have county duo Gary and Cillian Brennan back in harness for the rest of the campaign, but their loss could prove crucial this time around. Podge McMahon will likely lead the scoring charge up front, but with home advantage in Lisdoonvara, the North Clare men might just edge it.
Verdict: St Breckan’s
GARRY CUP PREVIEWS
Cratloe v Kilmihil
This is a tie that always draws huge interest given the links between both clubs. Cratloe manager Colm Collins has faced his native parish on numerous occasions in recent times, including in both league and championship last year. The south-east Clare men came through both those ties, including a comfortable victory in the championship. This time around they will be without a number of key players due to inter-county commitments, but will still have huge experience to draw on with the likes of Mikey Hawes, Liam Markham, Enda Boyce and David Collins all likely to feature prominently. Kilmihil for their part will have former county panellists David Egan and Martin O’Leary available, but Jack Browne will have to sit this one out. Club hero Mark O’Connell is at the helm while former international rules star Odran O’Dwyer is also involved as coach. There won’t be much in it, but a hesitant nod goes to the home side.
Doonbeg v Kilfenora
The Magpies got 2019 underway with a hard-fought draw against county champions Miltown last weekend in the O’Gorman Cup, as they get ready to being life in the second tier of the league. Kilfenora were promoted last year as Division Three champions, but suffered relegation from the senior championship. A partial return to the top tier was on the cards as part of the North Clare amalgamation, but the club opted to pull the plug on the project to concentrate on their own efforts to bounce straight back up on their own right. It is understood that forward Killian Malone will not be part of the squad for the coming campaign, with his loss set to be felt on the scoring front. Doonbeg will be without the Tubridy pairing of Eamon and David, while Cian O’Dea misses out for Kilfenora. That battling draw last weekend will have steeled Daniel Ryan’s charges, and they should get their opening league points here.
O’Curry’s v St Joseph’s Doora Barefield
Two sides who suffered relegation from the top tier of the championship in 2018 clash in this opening league round, with O’Curry’s also new to the Garry Cup ranks having dropped down last year. On paper, the Parish should be capable of blending youth with experience, having won the Minor A title and contested the U-21A final last year. They will also be able to call on the likes of Alan O’Neill and David O’Brien in terms of a scoring threat, while the Hannan twins will also have huge roles to play. O’Curry’s will be looking forward to a tilt at the senior championship along with their west Clare neighbours Naomh Eoin as part of a peninsula amalgamation, but the word is that for now, both clubs are concentrating on getting their own houses in order early in the season. Club stalwart Michael Carmody patrols the line for the coming season, with county minor selector Sean Haugh set to be central to their challenge. Doonaha is never an easy place to go, but St Joseph’s have the capability to pick up the points.
Verdict: St Joseph’s Doora Barefield
Kildysart v Corofin
Newly promoted Corofin will be without star man Jamie Malone for this tie, as Colm Clancy’s side look to consolidate their position in the second tier. They defied the odds to reach a championship quarter-final last year, and in the process ensured they would not be involved in the battle to avoid the drop. They are developing plenty young talent too, with recent minor stars in Gearoid Cahill and Kevin Keane. Kildysart were on the brink of avoiding having to contend with an extra four teams in the intermediate championship this year, but lost out in the decider against Kilrush after a tough battle. They lost out to neighbours Lissycasey in the opening round of the O’Gorman Cup last weekend, but having that game under their belt could prove crucial.