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Crunch time in Senior Hurling Championship

Senior Hurling Championship
Round 3 Group 3
Broadford v Crusheen at
Cusack Park, Sunday 12pm

The Canon Hamilton may be out of reach but this is still a county final to both Broadford and Crusheen in a must-not-lose affair to avoid the unrepentant relegation play-offs that will cull two teams to intermediate level for 2022.
It’s a difficult tie to call really as both have failed to register a victory so far, albeit that Broadford have shown the better form by putting it up to both Ballyea and Cratloe whereas Crusheen have had much less to shout about against the same opponents.
Broadford’s battling qualities will be required as their track record in relegation play-offs isn’t good and therefore this represents the 2019 intermediate champions’ best chance of survival.
Crusheen meanwhile haven’t won a Senior A Championship tie since 2019, a five match losing streak that won’t be easy to arrest on Sunday. Their transition stems from an ageing core from their championship winning sides of 2010/11 and the assimilation of newer talent mainly stemming from Crusheen/Tubber’s Under 21 side that contested the 2019 A decider against Kilmaley.
Crusheen’s great senior experience will be required as Broadford will undoubtedly throw everything at them in an effort to consolidate their senior status.

Verdict: Broadford

Cratloe v Ballyea
at Cusack Park, Sunday 2.45pm

The complexion of this tie altered completely last Sunday when Ennistymon dumped Cratloe out of the senior football championship in Cusack Park. A Cratloe victory would have placed a far less emphasis on this group decider with Ballyea and would perhaps have allowed the more determined 2016 and ’18 champions to triumph.
However, with their sole focus now on the Canon Hamilton, a scorned Cratloe will present a far stiffer test for Ballyea but one that Robbie Hogan’s side will relish as they look to step up their challenge ahead of the quarter-finals.
After all, with both guaranteed a business end spot with a game to spare, the prize on offer is to avoid fellow group winners Sixmilebridge, Éire Òg and Inagh-Kilnamona in the last eight draw. Just as significantly, protecting their perfect starts will also be high on the priority list as neither will want to take a back step at this stage.
Ballyea appear to have more in their locker to prevail on this occasion in what is a repeat of the 2018 decider that Cratloe will remember for all the wrong reasons due to a dramatic second half turnaround.

Verdict: Ballyea

Senior Hurling Championship
Round 5 Group 1
Inagh-Kilnamona v Whitegate
at Cusack Park Saturday 2.30pm

It’s a veritable dead rubber as regardless of the result, Inagh-Kilnamona are assured of top spot in the group and a coveted seeded position in the quarter-final draw while Whitegate can neither contend for the business end nor face the heat of relegation play-offs.
Still, Inagh-Kilnamona won’t want to let slip their perfect record that in such a treacherous group would be a real badge of honour as they confidently approach the knock-out stages. Equally, Whitegate, off the back of their best back-to-back displays since their return to senior in 2013.
After ruling out relegation danger against the Mills, Terence Fahy’s side should have put themselves in the mix for a quarter-final place, only to somehow let Clonlara off the hook at the death. Consequently, Inagh-Kilnamona won’t get anything easy off Whitegate who have nothing to lose ahead of a senior B campaign but Eugene Cullinan’s side will still be expected to prevail.

Verdict: Inagh-Kilnamona

Kilmaley v Clonlara
at Cusack Park, Saturday 5.15pm

The only quarter-final showdown is saved for Saturday evening as Kilmaley and Clonlara lock horns for the first time since 2016. That opening match was memorable for being a thriller as Clonlara prevailed by the minimum at 2-21 to 3-17 on their way to a second successive final while Kilmaley would actually fall in the other direction, a spiral that eventually saw them being relegated to intermediate.
The stakes are equally as high this time around as despite being perennial title contenders, neither can claim to be firing on all cylinders so far in this campaign. A win or draw is good enough for Kilmaley to prevail in what would be their best result of the season while a relieved Clonlara should be buoyed by their late reprieve against Whitegate, albeit that they were sorely out-of-sorts for long periods of that tie.
Clonlara have had the Indian sign over Kilmaley in their last three championship outings since 2015 but their form is too patchy to be relied upon, with Kilmaley offering the slightly more assured consistency to date.

Verdict: Kilmaley

The Intermediate Hurling Championship Quarter-Finals also take place over the weekend, with a civil war between underage amalgamation partners Corofin and Ruan fittingly commencing matters in Sixmilebridge on Saturday at 2pm.
Following back-to-back Minor A titles for the first times in their clubs’ histories, the influx of talent has benefitted both as Ruan have gone from relegation candidates to quarter-finalists with a perfect group campaign while Corofin displayed their true colours to upset the odds and take the scalp of St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield in their final round just to squeak through to the last eight.
Experience tips the scale in Corofin’s favour and the same goes for the intriguing clash of Tulla and Sixmilebridge in Gurteen on Saturday at 4pm.
Tulla were a senior side only two years ago and are gunning to get back there as quickly as possible but the ‘Bridge’s second string won’t be easily overcome as they contest their eighth consecutive quarter-final.
On Sunday, St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield and Bodyke locking horns for the second successive season in Sixmilebridge at 2pm, a match that the Parish will be favourites to shade as they require a backlash from their opening loss to Corofin last time out.
In the second match in O’Garney Park, last year’s finalists Tubber take on beaten semi-finalists Smith O’Brien’s in what could be the tie of the round.
With a perfect three match winning record under their belts, the Killaloe-Bridgetown side will never get a better chance of taking down a Tubber side that have been improving with every game but are yet to reach the heights of last season.
In the Junior A Hurling Championship Quarter-Finals, favourites Ogonnelloe and the Banner will be expected to emerge unscathed against Ennistymon and St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield respectively while in the remaining last eight battles of the second strings, Kilmaley and Clooney-Quin may have too much for Crusheen and Ballyea.
Junior B favourites Sixmilebridge and Tulla meet at the penultimate stage while the always compelling derby between Scariff and Feakle will decide who faces them in the decider.

by Eoin Brennan

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