Clare SFC Quarter-Final Preview: Cratloe v Ennistymon
It is a familiar fixture at this stage of the championship in the last decade as these sides lock horns for the third time in that period. Cratloe are the masters at the moment with victory in their two previous encounters with the last one coming in 2017 when the South-East Clare men recorded a 3-13 to 1-10 victory.
After breaking their quarter-final glass ceiling last year, Ennistymon have developed into front-runners for the Jack Daly cup and have been consistent in their performances across league and championship to date in 2019. They secured a semi-final spot in the Cusack Cup and while they shipped a heavy defeat to Clondegad that day, they bounced back well to pick up two wins from two in their group campaign to seal a knock-out spot as group winners. Any fears of complacency were put to bed early in their last outing against Cooraclare a month ago and Mark Shanahan will have his charges fresh and ready to go for their biggest challenge to date.
It has been a busy few weeks for Cratloe in both codes but then again you nearly have to go back to the last decade for the last time they were not handling this type of schedule. So much has been spoken about and written about in terms of their ability to manage both codes, and to date they have allayed any fears that the bodies are looking for a break. That was typified by the fact that they were the team finishing the stronger against Clonlara last weekend so that momentum and confidence is sure to carry over here. They have also been boosted by the return of two key men in the form of Shane Gleeson and Diarmuid Ryan in recent weeks, and the experience gained by those who replaced them means that Cratloe’s options off the bench have also been steeled.
Ennistymon’s strength lies in the manner in which they like to carry the ball through the lines with emphasis placed on patient build up with ball in hand. In some ways, it is a similar story to Cratloe with their manager always espousing the value of the O’Neill’s ball during the 60 minutes. It means that both sides will know what the other is going to bring, and will also know how best to set up to try and stop them. With a potent Cratloe attack spearheaded by Cathal McInerney, match-ups will be vital with Sean O’Driscoll the most likely candidate to pick him up. Enda Ralph looks the best bet for tracking Podge Collins while the midfield battle will be crucial. It might be an area that Ennistymon can hurt Cratloe, with the powerful running of Cathal Malone and David Fitzgerald punching holes in the defensive cover.
No one would be surprised to see either of these two teams with Jack Daly in their possession in October, but for one of them that dream ends this weekend. Experience of how to handle this time of year can often be invaluable so the journey of the last 12 months will stand to Ennistymon no end. The fear for them is that they have been out of action now for a month, while Cratloe have had the perfect mixture of a free weekend and that morale boosting win over Clonlara.
There will be nothing in it, and it might even go the distance, but the slight preference is for Cratloe to edge through.
View From The Camps
Cratloe: Colm Collins (Manager)
Cratloe will look to bounce back from a four-point loss to Éire Óg by booking their place in the last four in the race for Jack Daly but will face stern opposition in the form of last year’s finalists Ennistymon.
Cratloe did record an impressive 1-18 to 0-10 victory over Clondegad in round one and last year’s semi-finalists will look to reaffirm their position as one of the leading lights in Clare football.
Manager Colm Collins believes the form his opponents have shown so far this season warrants massive respect.
“When you get to this stage of the competition, you’re always going to be playing good sides, especially with the pot of the draw that we came out of. It probably highlights the flaws in the three-team group system that we’re still through despite losing our second game. That maybe something for the powers that be to look at for the next year.
“I didn’t see all of the Doonbeg game, but Ennistymon were impressive in their defeat of Cooraclare and some of the young players they have, have boosted their squad. All of the subs that came on made a contribution, so we know it’ll be a tough game. They have a very strong panel and a very strong team,” Colm said.
A much-talked about aspect of Cratloe is that fatigue becomes an issue as the season goes on due to the percentage of dual players they have. Colm believes this has no bearing on his squad’s performance.
“There’s a fallacy out there that Cratloe are flogging players to death but the truth is that we probably do less than most clubs. We will do two sessions this week and that’s it. Enda Boyce did go off injured and that’s a worry but other than that I think we’ll be alright. The one thing we do is put more thought into our training sessions as we don’t have many as clubs that just play football,” Colm pointed out.
The last time these two sides met in the championship, Cratloe won rather convincingly in the 2017 quarter-final, and Colm says these squads know each other intimately.
“These players know each other inside out. They have contested numerous underage finals and we won some and Ennistymon won some. The bulk of these players would be very familiar with each other. The younger Ennistymon players wouldn’t be that familiar to us as they dominated for a number of years underage and we weren’t competing in the A grade in those years,” Colm concluded.
Ennistymon: Noel Crowe (Selector)
Ennistymon have illustrated why they’re one of the main contenders for the Jack Daly Cup via two wins in the group stages to book their quarter-final clash against Cratloe.
The North Clare outfit got their campaign off to a winning start with a three-point win over Doonbeg before an impressive 2-13 to 0-10 victory over Cooraclare in the second round.
Selector Noel Crowe says the management and squad are very happy with they are as they face into another tough challenge this Saturday at 2pm in Cusack Park.
“We’re very happy to come through those two difficult tasks. Playing Cooraclare and Doonbeg, they are two teams with years of very serious championship pedigree, so to come through those two tough group games, we’re very happy with that.
“Championship games are always very competitive, and we have had a four-week break between this game and the Cooraclare game in round two. Sometimes that can be of great benefit to you and other times it can count against you but this time it definitely gave us a chance to get bodies back fit and recovered, and we’re anxious to move on to the next round now,” Noel confessed.
Noel stressed that while Ennistymon would love to go one better than last year’s final loss to St Joseph’s Miltown Malbay, they are firmly fixed on the challenge that Cratloe pose. He pointed out the recent record between the sides as a very good reason as to why his team are looking no further than Saturday.
“We have come out the wrong side of a few championship games against Cratloe in recent years and we are very focussed in on this clash now. Cratloe have a serious championship pedigree and they have always proven very difficult to beat in championship football, for any of the teams in Clare. So, we know the task ahead of us on Saturday is a very difficult task, but we are really looking forward to the challenge.
“We have been very competitive in a number of underage competitions in recent years, and we are continually trying to introduce younger players into our panel. We have a very large panel which is good and means we can always leave the selection process until closer to the game. We can only really focus on one game and our total focus is now on the Cratloe game this Saturday,” Noel concluded.