Eoin Brennan whips out the calculator and goes over the Clare Cup permutations ahead of this evening’s games
Feakle’s first set-back against Inagh-Kilnamona a fortnight ago did prove costly but crucially not detrimental to their hopes of a first Clare Cup in over three decades. It does, however, mean a three-way wrestle for silverware at the top with Sixmilebridge and Cratloe but with the other two clashing, all Feakle can do is look after their own corner and that means not just overcoming holders Kilmaley on away soil but doing so by as handsome a margin as possible.
All because a Feakle win of any kind will be sufficient if Sixmilebridge win the Garneyside derby as the head-to-head would be favourable towards PJ Kelleher’s side. However, if Feakle and Cratloe both win, then it comes down to score difference as the sides have not played each other and currently the 2018 and ’19 county finalists are four points better in that regard.
Before they can assess the permutations however, Feakle need to handle their own business first which up against a Kilmaley side that dished out a 16 point defeat on Clooney-Quin last time out won’t be an easy task as the hosts will be determined to finish the Clare Cup on a high themselves ahead of a tough championship campaign to come.
Kilmaley v Feakle
at Kilmaley, Friday, 7.45pm
They’ve had some memorable derby battles over the past decade and even faced the ultimate showdown in the 2019 county final that the ‘Bridge won by 0-21 to 0-15 but this latest barometer should bring out the best in that rivalry once more on Saturday.
It’s the perfect pre-championship gauge of where they currently lie without their county contingents which does impact Sixmilebridge more as their trio of Cathal Malone, Paidi Fitzpatrick and Shane Golden is offset against Cratloe’s sole countyman in Diarmuid Ryan.
It’s the form of former Clare seniors Seadna Morey and Jamie Shanahan that have gathered momentum for the ‘Bridge over the past few weeks as following an opening loss to Feakle, they have had to respond with three successive victories just to put themselves back into contention.
The same goes for Cratloe who suffered a humbling opening reverse to Clooney-Quin and admittedly have taken a more dramatic route to redemption with late steals against Inagh-Kilnamona and Kilmaley before a more conventional victory against Crusheen last time out.
With potential Clare Cup silverware on the table for the victor or at least the chance to spoil their neighbour’s chances of it, expect the match-up of 2021 to date if both are in the mood.
The remainder of the Clare Cup 1A ties are academic in terms of title ambitions but crucial as final competitive outings ahead of the championship which depending on how Brian Lohan’s county seniors fare, is provisionally set for three week’s time. The most intriguing tie is Clooney-Quin and Clonlara as both sides require a shot-in-the-arm before the race for the Canon Hamilton commences and with Clonlara’s Clare Under 20 contingent back in situ, it could be decisive on this occasion.
Inagh-Kilnamona just hit form too late to put them into Clare Cup contention but they will be keen to extend their winning streak to three matches this Saturday in what will be a good test against a Broadford side that have had to delve into their entire pack but will be satisfied with the results as they have more than held their own in their return to the top tier.
Finally, Crusheen’s final round tie against Ballyea should be the match of the round but definitely won’t be as they are set to meet again in the upcoming championship. However, for new Crusheen manager Kevin Sheehan, it’s no harm to get this first reunion with his native side out of the way ahead of that Round 2 clash in late August.
Cratloe v Sixmilebridge
at Cratloe, Friday, 7.45pm
There’s no silverware on offer in Division 1B but with the top four set to lock horns this weekend, they couldn’t have asked for a better lead-in to championship. Newmarket-on-Fergus will clinch top spot if they can take all the spoils from Tulls but a home victory would certainly open up the door of possibility not only for themselves but more pointedly the winners of O’Callaghan’s Mills and St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield.
The conclusion of Division 2 was expected to be a straight winner-takes-all final showdown between Tubber and Scariff but Clooney-Quin’s second string have certainly spoiled that party and could amazingly clinch the title if they can overcome Kilmaley and Tubber win or draw against the intermediate champions. A Scariff victory however would guarantee the continuation of their trophy magnetism.
Division 3 is a straight shoot-out between Ogonnelloe and Killanena who face the second teams of Clonlara and Broadford respectively. A win for both would provide a timely validation of their progress for a rejuvenated Ogonnelloe ahead of their Junior A Championship bid.
The destination of the Division 4 League honours was decided last Sunday in Gurteen when hosts St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield brushed off the challenge of chief rivals O’Callaghan’s Mills by 1-17 to 1-04 to cement top spot with a match to spare.
However, where the Division 5 spoils go is still uncertain as Scariff, Sixmilebridge, Kilmaley and Feakle are all still in contention heading into this weekend’s final round. All eyes will be on the derby clash between the second strings of Scariff and Feakle on Sunday as by then they will know exactly what is required after main rivals Sixmilebridge and Kilmaley will have played their last round ties against Clonlara and Whitegate respectively. Whatever happens, a Scariff victory would be enough to garner the league title.
Much like 1B, there’s no actual silverware for Divisions 5B and 5C but pride alone should be a driving force for the final round offerings. In 5B, Tulla, Tubber, Ruan and Wolfe Tones are all still in the mix for top spot, with the Shannon side actually hosting Ruan while Clooney-Quin’s third team have already been confirmed as 5C tabltoppers ahead of their derby against Tulla.