WHILE they had a disastrous league campaign where they lost eight of their nine outings, Clonlara are unbeaten going into round three of the championship this week and they will be fancied to maintain that run when they play Corofin on Saturday.
The South-East Clare side, who were champions in 2008, played the majority of their league games without their leading players, the O’Donovan twins, Darach Honan, John Conlon and Nicky O’Connell.
Corofin have suffered two heavy defeats in this campaign and while they had a great result when beating Broadford in the league last week, it will be a surprise if they manage to come out on top against Clonlara.
With their toughest game to come in the last round where Crusheen will provide the opposition, Clonlara will be keen to win this week and thus put themselves in a strong position for a place in the last eight.
The quintet of county senior players, together with minors Cathal O’Connell and Colm Galvin, team captain Tomás O’Donovan, Tommy Lynch and Donal Madden should prove too strong for a Corofin outfit that will be looking to Dara Clancy, Darragh Shannon, Gerry Quinn, Luke O’Loughlin and Stephen Heagney.
Shannon missed the recent league win over Broadford and Corofin followers will be hoping that he will be fit in time to take his place in the line-up this week.
With a full squad available, Corofin could well trouble their more fancied opponents but it will be a surprise if Clonlara fail to come out on top.
The meeting of Ballyea and Crusheen will get this weekend’s round three schedule of games underway on Friday evening at county headquarters.
Ballyea were unlucky not to get something from their first-round meeting with Clonlara when they lost by a point, with the South-East Clare side’s Donal Madden hitting the winner in the final minute.
Their recent league win over Tubber suggests that they will make things difficult for Crusheen, one of the favourites to qualify from the group.
It remains to be seen whether or not Ballyea will include county minors Paul Flanagan or Tony Kelly in their line-up. Neither were involved in the opening round but Cathal Doohan, another member of the county minor squad, played in that tie and is set to play again this week.
Shane O’Neill, Paddy O’Connell, and Tony Griffin are three of the team’s most experienced players and they will fill key roles this week in a side that is also expected to include county senior footballer Gary Brennan at full-forward.
It’s almost certain that Crusheen will be without the services of inter-county defender Pat Vaughan, who is still recovering from the ankle injury he suffered when playing for Clare against Dublin recently. U-21 county player Fergus Kennedy is also doubtful due to injury.
The Dillon brothers, Cian, Cathal and Cronan, Donal Tuohy, Alan Brigdale and Gerry O’Grady are some of those that Crusheen will be looking to as they go in search of a second victory in this campaign.
While I expect Ballyea to make them battle all the way for victory, it will be a surprise if Crusheen aren’t in front when the final whistle sounds.