The last four in the race for the Clare Intermediate football title will be known after this weekend’s action while two more teams will move one step closer to dropping out of the second tier.
Clare IFC Quarter Final Preview: Shannon Gaels v Coolmeen
This should be a spicy local derby with a place in the last four of the championship on the line.
As with most derbies, there are plenty side stories to get stuck into and this one is no different. There will be plenty interest in the sideline battle as the 1997 senior county championship winning manager and captain go head to head. Paddy Keane was the man who led his native Sky Blues to victory in Carron that day and is now manager of the Gaels. His opposite number this weekend will be the man who lifted Jack Daly that day with Martin Morrissey now in charge at Coolmeen.
On their form in the championship to date, the favourites tag has to lie with Shannon Gaels. A late Kilkee rally may have coloured the scoreboard in their opening round tie but the result was never in doubt. They followed that up with another composed display to take down O’Curry’s a fortnight ago and see them though as group winners.
Coolmeen shipped a heavy loss to St Breckan’s a month ago while it took a last minute penalty to see them over the line against Eire Óg in Round One. They have been struggling to create chances from open play and will meet a Shannon Gaels defence who have been largely miserly so far.
The derby element will mean that the opening exchanges are sure to be hot and heavy but when the dust settles, it should be Shannon Gaels who march on to the last four.
Verdict: Shannon Gaels.
Clare IFC Quarter-Final Preview: St Breckan’s v O’Curry’s
A meeting of North and West with the losers seeing their championship ambitions go south for another year.
St Breckan’s have been the team of the championship to date with a ruthless win over Coolmeen on the opening day before seeing off the challenge of Eire Óg to seal top spot in the group. Donie Garrihy took over the reins when the club was at a low ebb after defeat in the relegation final 12 months ago saw them drop out of the top tier.
Since then they have regrouped and were competitive across the Cusack Cup campaign before transferring that form to championship. As all good teams do, they have a strong spine to the team with Tristan O’Callaghan, Evan Barrett and Alan Sweeney anchoring the defence. Dale Masterson and Liam Tierney have been excellent at midfield while Maccon Byrne, Joe McGann and Aiden Davidson are doing the damage up front.
It has been something of a stunted campaign for O’Curry’s to date who have also had to balance their senior commitments with neighbours Naomh Eoin. They were impressive winners over Kilkee in the opening round but went down tamely to Shannon Gaels last time out. The manner of that defeat is what will be of most concern to Michael Carmody and Dermot Galvin as they look to refocus on this do or die encounter. They will need their leaders like Michael O’Shea, Sean Haugh, Nigel Murray and Eoin Brew to lead the charge while Thomas Clancy has been in excellent form with the boot so far.
It will be a game that should bring out the best in both teams but on the balance of the championship to date, the vote goes to St Breckan’s to come through a real test.
Verdict: St Breckan’s
Clare IFC Quarter-Final Preview: Kildysart v Kilfenora
On paper this should be the game of the round in what is a repeat of the 2016 final.
It took a replay on that occasion to find a winner with the North Clare men coming through to take their place in the top tier, but it was to be brief spell as they dropped down again 12 months later.
Aidan O’Keeffe is the man holding the whip in North Clare and two wins from their two group games saw them come through in top spot. They were contrasting performances as they were comfortable winners over Liscannor before having to withstand a late surge from Wolfe Tones before taking the points. As ever, Cian O’Dea and Micheal Duffy will be the key men to drive the charge as they look to make it back to the last four.
Only scoring difference prevented Kildysart from taking top spot in their group with St Joseph’s kicking an injury time point in their final round win over Naomh Eoin to pip them to it. Both teams in the group were comfortable winners over a young peninsula based outfit, while there was no separating them then they met in Round One.
Kildysart have been building steadily in recent years and their promotion to the Cusack Cup for 2020 is already a major achievement for the year. The young guns like Emmet McMahon, Diarmuid O’Donnell and Seamus Casey are being guided by the more experienced campaigners in the O’Connor’s and Shane McNeilis.
On the face of it, Kildysart look to be the more balanced and are a step ahead of Kilfenora in terms of the progression and development of their team. They should have enough to come through but they will be tested.
Clare IFC Quarter-Final Preview: St Joseph’s Doora Barefield v Wolfe Tones
St Joseph’s carry the favourites tag into this one and justifiably so after a solid campaign so far. Wolfe Tones were forced to battle to eventually wear down Liscannor in their winner takes all group clash two weeks ago.
The Parish were impressive in their victory over Naomh Eoin last time out with a solid defensive display complimented by a free flowing attack. Kevin Dilleen and Kevin Harrington will make sure that nothing goes past them without a stern interview, while Eoin Hanrahan and Leo Duggan are a commanding presence in the middle of the field.
It is up front where St Joseph’s look to hold all the aces with Brian Guilfoyle, Conor Brannock and Eoghan Thynne all capable of putting away the chances that fall their way.
Wolfe Tones will be hoping to keep it tight at the back and try to make hay from turnovers but on their form to date, St Joseph’s should come through.
Verdict: St Joseph’s Doora Barefield
Clare IFC Relegation Semi-Final Previews
Liscannor v St Senan’s Kilkee
Two clubs with stories histories over the last two decades in particular lock horns to avoid moving one step closer to the third tier.
St Senan’s have struggled to get a foothold in the championship to date with consecutive losses against O’Curry’s and Shannon Gaels bringing an end to their title ambitions. They have been off duty for a month and it remains to be seen how much work has been done in that time.
Liscannor battled back from their opening round loss to Kilfenora as they put Wolfe Tones to the pin of their collar in a heartening display, and that spirit could well see them over the line here.
Naomh Eoin v Eire Óg
It has been a disappointing campaign for a young Naomh Eoin side with two heavy defeats in their group games against St Joseph’s and Kildysart. It could well be that they struggled to balance intermediate and senior commitments but more will be needed here.
Eire Óg made the step up from Junior A last season and almost made the perfect start only to be denied by a late Coolmeen penalty. They battled well against title favourites St Breckan’s last time out, and the greater experience in their squad may well see them edge through here.
Verdict: Eire Óg