Clare U-21A Football Final Preview: St Breckan’s v Kilmihil-Shannon Gaels
The last top-level silverware of the Clare GAA season will be handed out this weekend when St Breckan’s and Kilmihil-Shannon Gaels go head to head.
This championship began on Sunday October 13 and just over a month later, the champions will be crowned. It is part of the wider fixtures debate that badly needs to be had, but the common consensus seems to be that this championship is quickly becoming the forgotten one. Games are simply being rushed through and being played for the sake of playing them, which is a real shame given the competitive nature of the competition. The dreaded walkover has also reared its ugly head with Clooney-Quin conceding in their preliminary round tie in the B championship against Kildysart, before the estuary amalgamation of Coolmeen-Kildysart gave a walkover to Eire Óg in their top tier quarter-final. It is something that needs to be addressed as it is not acceptable and unfair to all concerned. The timing of the championship certainly needs to be reviewed but as already stated, it is only a part of the overall wider debate on the GAA calendar.
Both sides have been impressive in their run to Sunday’s final, with St Breckan’s seeing off the challenge of St Joseph’s Doora Barefield by 2-11 to 1-10 in their quarter-final tie before a narrow 1-7 to 1-6 win over Eire Óg in the last four. Their run to the Munster Club intermediate final has been driven by a number of their younger contingent with the likes of Jack Sheedy, Joe McGann, Paraic Kelly, Colm O’Brien, Evan Barrett, Robert O’Connell and Rowan Danaher all playing key roles in both runs. The young talent does not stop there with Jamie Stack and Cian Burke adding to a strong line up with both of those in particular instrumental in their run to the Clare Minor B football final in which they put up a huge battle in defeat to Cooraclare. They also have the promising Oisín O’Loughlin between the sticks while the addition of Jonah Culligan to an already potent forward line means their opponents will have plenty to think about in terms of their defensive set-up.
Kilmihil-Shannon Gaels have had a similar route to the decider as they recorded a comfortable win over Naomh Eoin-O’Curry’s-Kilkee, before coming through a tough test against Kilmurry Ibrickane by 2-10 to 1-10. A defence anchored by John Finnucane and Jack Reidy will need to be at their sharpest to hold one of the liveliest front six at the grade, but it is at midfield that they may hold the upper hand. The performances of Darragh Bohannon and David Lernihan have caught the eye so far and it would no surprise to see that transfer to an inter-county partnership at some stage. Paraic Kelly and Aidan McNamara will likely be their direct opponents but the combination of Lerihan’s ability to pick a pass and Bohannon’s surging runs will mean extra cover could well be needed to negate those threats. Ciarán Downes and Gearóid O’Grady will be the chief danger men up front, with Seán Crowley’s ability to read the breaks another string in their bow.
It has all the makings of a quality game and the fact it is on in Cusack Park will suit the attacking styles that both sides like to employ. There is plenty pace in both attacks and both will likely try to leave space for their inside lines to exploit. Match-ups will be as vital as ever and it might just be the North Clare men who will hold the upper hand in the forward division. Culligan, Stack and McGann are three of the best young forwards in the county and the effort to contain their threat may well impact on Kilmihil-Shannon Gaels ability to push forward. Bohannon and Lernihan will need to be on top in midfield but a strong defensive cover for St Breckan’s will be anchored by Jack Sheedy and Rowan Danaher, with the battle of Sheedy and O’Grady likely to be a key one.
Both sides are well able to keep the scoreboard ticking over but it could well prove that the momentum of the run St Breckan’s have been on in recent times will be a crucial factor. It has all the hallmarks of a game that will go the distance and while no result will be a surprise, St Breckan’s may just have that bit extra.
Verdict: St Breckan’s.