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The Jack Daly cup will be presented to the winners of the 2019 Clare SFC. Pic by John Kelly

Clare SFC Final Preview: KIB v Miltown

Clare SFC Final Preview: KIB v Miltown

Derrick Lynch

This really is a game that will be decided by the absolute minimum, if it even is decided at all.

It is the final that people have been willing to come to pass ever since Miltown got their hands on Jack Daly after a 25 year wait back in 2015. Since then, the derby to beat all derbies has been on the cards twice only to be thwarted at the semi-final stage, but now it is all systems go for what should be one of the most memorable Clare senior football finals for many years. There are so many sides stories of who is married into where and what families have had to ignore group chats over the last fortnight, but when you strip all that away, you are left with two outstanding football teams who will undoubtedly serve up a titanic battle between the four white lines.

If you were to base your selection solely on the semi-final victories for both sides, then you would have to say Kilmurry have the slight advantage. The way they closed down the space and forced Cratloe in numerous turnovers before breaking at pace was a reminder of the Kilmurry sides who held a stranglehold on Clare club football over the last 15 years. Cratloe have one of the most dangerous and mobile forward lines in the game, and they were simply shut out by a green and red wall that would not yield. Keith King and Aidan McCarthy were on top in midfield, Daniel Walsh belied his status as a championship debutante with an eye catching display, while Keelan Sexton reminded everyone of just how talented he is. Add all that to the experience offered by Martin McMahon, Enda Couglan, Darren and Shane Hickey along with Michael Hogan and you start to get a sense of this being a Kilmurry outfit who have found the pace to supplement the know-how.

Miltown will be the first to admit that they have not been hitting the heights that saw them go all the way to last year’s Munster Club final, but like all good champions do, they have been finding ways to win. A lot of it boils down to the experience built up in the squad over the last five years, with no sense of panic setting in when backs are to the wall. The first inkling of that came in their Cusack Cup final win over Clondegad when Gary Brennan almost inspired a second-half fightback only for a combination of outstanding Sean O’Brien saves and clinical Eoin Cleary shooting seeing them over the line. It is a trend that has continued since then as they have been forced to dig deep in a number of games, not least against Doonbeg last time out. The Magpies looked to be on the brink of an upset but Miltown found that extra gear with Cormac Murray’s goal putting an end to those thoughts.

The reality for the holders is that none of those performances will be good enough to make it back to back titles in 113 years, and likewise Kilmurry will know that a season’s best is needed if they are to wrest Jack Daly to the other side of Bealaclugga Bridge. If Miltown switch off for any period of the game, as they have been doing at times this year, then Kilmurry will punish them severly. If Kilmurry are not disciplined and honest in defence, then Miltown will make hay.

It might not be a straight match-up, but the goalkeepers are going to be key figures in deciding this one. Ian McInerney and Sean O’Brien are proven shot stoppers and command their squares with authority, but it is their restarts that will be crucial. Much of what Miltown do begins with O’Brien. He has that knack of finding the precision ball down the flanks that allows the champions to build through the phases and work it to the danger zone. It is something Kilmurry will be aware of and will likely push up on to cut out the short options. If they do, he will be forced to go long and this could be an area of concern. McInerney is also adept at picking out the quick short ball, but if Miltown cut that option out he is much more comfortable with pressing the launch button.

It might sound obvious but midfield dominance could well be the winning of the game. If kickouts are forced long, the aeriel duels will be key and King showed brilliant form in the semi-final when taking to the skies. McCarthy’s pace on the breaks will need watching, but either Cleary or Looney are more than capable of going with him. Cleary is the link man from defence to attack for Miltown so whoever picks him up will know that time and space will need to be at a premium to stop him from influencing the game. Looney is effective when he spots the gap and is an ever willing outlet for recycled possession so will need constant watching.

Match ups will be crucial and Miltown will have to come up with a plan to curb Sexton, Walsh and Dermot Coughlan in particular. Seanie Malone looked back to himself last time out and could well be detailed to Coughlan while Gordon Kelly and Keelan Sexton will be interesting if it materialises. Miltown are unlikely to stray from the tried and tested tactic of having Brian Curtin drop back and he could be deployed to cut down the space that Sexton operates in. At the other end, Martin McMahon will be sweeping between the lines so the job of tracking Eoin Cleary could fall to Ciaran Morrissey. Darren Hickey will look to keep tabs on Darragh McDonagh while Mark Killeen could pair up with Cormac Murray.

Trying to find the difference between these two is akin to splitting hairs. No matter what matchups unfold, they are so finely balanced. Eoin Cleary and Keelan Sexton are obvious candidates for providing that moment of magic, but both defences are extremely well marshalled. On the balance of form coming into the game, a slight nod has to go to Kilmurry but it is really is an impossible one to call with any great degree of certainty.

Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane

 

Clare SFC Final Pundit View: Ger Keane

What are your thoughts on the two teams in the final?

It is a great final for the neutrals to look forward to. Both teams have been impressive on their way to this stage and both are getting better as they go along. Kilmurry were very impressive in their win over Cratloe while Miltown have been impressive in periods of games but haven’t yet put a 60 minute performance together. Both sides will be happy to be there but both will know there is plenty room for improvement too.

What are the key areas that could decide the game?

A lot will hinge on midfield and whoever can get the platform built there will go a long way towards winning it. Kick-outs will be interesting and there will be plenty analysis done on both sides on that aspect of the game. Kilmurry really pressed up on the Cratloe kick-out and Miltown are very good at doing that too. Both teams are similar in that they like to drop players back and hit on the counter so there is going to be a lot of crowding around that middle third.

Who wins it and why?

It is a really tight one to call. Kilmurry have huge experience over the last few years and Miltown are probably taking the mantle of the new kids on the block. If I have to pick a winner, it might be Miltown if they can pull out a 60 minute performance and maintain the intensity then they might just have a little more pace to do the damage. That being said, you write Kilmurry off at your peril and it will be a really cracking game. If Miltown win, it will be almost getting rid of that Kilmurry hoodoo because they haven’t had to beat them yet to win a championship, whereas if Kilmurry win they will be taking back the bragging rights so it is going to be fascinating.

 

Clare SFC Final Pundit View: Joe Garry

What are your thoughts on the two teams in the final?

It is no great surprise that we have ended up with the final pairing we have because both sides were always likely to be in the shake up. Both will play a similar game and will know each other’s game inside out so being able to take that early advantage in the game will be crucial. There is no better team that Kilmurry to defend a one or two point lead in the closing stages of games so they will be looking to get their noses in front down the home straight in the hope of seeing it through. They are playing the strongest squad of players in the championship in the form of Miltown. They have lots of pace around the field but as of now, we are yet to see the best that Miltown have to offer and they will need it to be produced if they are to win on Sunday.

What are the key areas that could decide the game?

Midfield will always be key in Gaelic football, but maybe less so in this case given how precise Ian McInerney and Sean O’Brien are with their kick-outs. That being said, it will still be a vital area because with both teams likely to deploy a sweeper, whoever can gain dominance in the middle third will pin the other back.

Who wins it and why?

I really don’t know. I said at the start of the year that whoever beats Miltown would win the championship because I felt they have the strongest panel and that has come to pass. It may not directly answer the question as to who will win but I really feel we could be looking at another day out to decide this one. We haven’t had a draw in the county football final since 2016 when Kilmurry were also involved and they got over Cratloe at the second time of asking. This has all the makings of another drawn game. There will be nothing between the sides and I don’t expect it to be a high scoring encounter so whoever can manage to fashion a goal could take a big step to the title.

 

 

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