Clare SFC Quarter-Final Preview: Kilmurry Ibrickane v Kilmihil
This is one that has all the makings of the game of the weekend as the neighbours do battle for a place in the last four.
For Kilmihil it represents the latest point in their development curve since making the step up from intermediate in 2017. As the newest team into the ranks 12 months ago, they survived the culling of five teams from the top tier before going on to contest the Senior B Final where they lost out to Doonbeg. Their task in 2019 was far from straightforward as they were drawn alongside champions Miltown, new intermediate champions Kilrush and the newly formed West Clare amalgamation. Their performances in the group stages were solid as they lost out narrowly to Miltown before getting the better of a tight battle with Naomh Eoin-O’Curry’s. It set up a winner takes all showdown with Kilrush, and there was no doubting the winner as Mark O’Connell’s charges raided for 5-11 as they posted the biggest score of the championship to date. It laid down a marker that they were ready for that next step, and there will be a renewed focus as they eye up the Bricks.
Kilmurry have had a relatively straight forward championship to date as they accounted for Lissycasey in Round One before a convincing win over Corofin two weeks later. They have been out of action for the last month, but the break will have been welcome with that time mostly being used to assess and treat a lengthening injury list that shows no sign of abating. The return of Keelan Sexton has been a major boost while Dermot Coughlan is also expected to be available after recovering from a broken bone in his hand that he picked up in the opening minute of the win over Lissycasey.
With a number of key players set to be absent for Kilmurry, Kilmihil will sense a real opportunity of turning them over. Their cause is aided by the presence of Kilmurry stalwart Odran O’Dwyer in their dressing room and his insight into his former team-mates will be a big element. Match-ups will be key and a battle between former county team-mates Martin O’Leary and Martin McMahon looks to be on the cards. O’Leary has been in brilliant form in the championship to date and curbing his influence will be vital if Kilmurry are to advance. There will likely be an intriguing battle at midfield between Aidan McCarthy and David Lernihan with both possessing brilliant pace and power. Dermot Coughlan will likely be picked up by David Egan while the clash of Jack Browne and Keelan Sexton will be a crucial one. Sean Crowely’s influence will also need to be taken into account with Darragh Sexton the likely candidate to keep tabs on him.
Kilmihil will see this as a free shot at making a semi-final but that is not to say they won’t be putting pressure on themselves to win. On their performances to date, they are more than deserving of being in the last four. Kilmurry have made a habit over the last two decades of knowing when to peak and it is usually when the knockout element comes into play. That being said, they have been caught at this stage of the championship in recent years, and Aiden Moloney will leave them in no doubt as to what is in store. This one will not be decided too long before the final whistle, but the greater experience of Kilmurry should see them come through a titanic battle.
Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane
View From The Camps
Kilmurry Ibrickane: Aiden Moloney (Manager)
Kilmurry Ibrickane are no strangers to the knockout stages of the Clare senior football championship in recent years, with the West Clare outfit amassing eight titles since the turn of the millennium. Four of those have come in this decade as they put titles back to back in 2011 and 2012 along with 2016 and 2017.
This year has seen a new influx of youth to the squad with recent county minors like Adam O’Connor and Damien Lynch joining Daniel Walsh, Caoilfhionn O’Dea and Diarmuid King in making their senior debuts. The return of Dermot Coughlan from injury and Keelan Sexton from travelling has also been a major boost for the Bricks, and manager Aiden Moloney is pleased with how they have navigated the championship to date.
“We had two good games with Lissycasey and Corofin and we got over them. The objective is always to get to the quarter-final and it is now that the hard work starts, and there are no more second chances for us. We have had no game for a month now and in one sense it has been a blessing because we have had a few injuries and we have had that time to try and clear them up. That has been one of the positives of the break but that being said, a month without competitive football is a small bit of a concern. We have plenty experience in the group and our lads have a good bit of work done now so hopefully that will stand to us. We have been trying to introduce a few younger lads into the team and we are hoping that blend of youth and experience will be right on the day, but it is probably still a work in progress” he said.
Kilmihil provide the opposition for Kilmurry this weekend where a familiar face will be staring down the line from the enemy trenches. Moloney admits his former team-mate and selector Odran O’Dwyer will be a major asset for their opponents.
“Odran had a fantastic playing career and he is a good man to have with you on the line too. We won a few championships together and he will know us well but we are looking forward to the challenge. We have had great times with Odran and I am sure that whoever comes out on top, we will be supporting each other but hopefully we can get our job done. Kilmihil have always had plenty good footballers and it is a long time since we met in the championship. I remember when I played against them they are a team that always gave us plenty problems and often turned us over too. They have done well so far this year and I am sure they have hit some of their targets already and they will play with that bit of freedom. We are going to have to be at our very best to take them on because they are young and lively and have nothing to lose at this stage” said Moloney.
Kilmihil: Mark O’Connell (Manager)
The latest upward curve in the trajectory of Kilmihil football saw them book a spot in the last eight of this year’s Clare senior football championship. A near decade long stint in the second tier came to an end in 2017, and since then a youthful side have continued to establish themselves as one of the top senior teams in the county.
They almost took the scalp of champions Miltown in this year’s opening round before going to record wins over Naomh Eoin-O’Curry’s and Kilrush which secured their status for another year while also seeing them into the knockout stages.
Manager Mark O’Connell feels their experience of the senior ranks in the last two seasons has played a key part in what they have produced to date.
“Last year a lot of our guys would never have played senior football before so that experience has really stood to them this season. The Miltown game was a good start for us I felt. Even though we lost it, we were still there with a shout in the closing stages and we got the wins in the other two games. The lads are learning all the time and they know what senior level is about so they are improving with every game. We are really looking forward to that next step which is the quarter-final on Saturday. We know we have to keep working all the time and everyone keeps pushing right to the final whistle. I was delighted for the lads to get that kind of performance in the Kilrush game. We knew we needed goals and we got them and I think we will need another few if we are to beat Kilmurry so hopefully we can do the same again” he noted.
Kilmihil’s last appearance in the county showpiece event came back in 1990 when they lost out to Miltown, and O’Connell feels there is no reason why they cannot take one more step towards bridging that gap.
“At the start of the year we set the quarter-final as our minimum expectation and the players now know that they are good enough. There is no reason in the world that they cannot now push on and go to at least a semi-final. They are more than good enough to do that and it is just about working hard on the field and dying for the jersey. Hopefully if we put in a good shift and everyone works hard we will be in the shake up on Saturday. Kilmurry are a serious team and I think they are one of the most consistent club teams in any county over the last ten years. They have introduced that youthful element to their team this year and they obviously have that blend of the more experienced lads with them. They are always going to be in the mix for the championship. We know it is going to be a massive game and a really tough one for us but we are going to give it everything and see how we get on” said O’Connell.