Cusack Cup Final: St Joseph’s Miltown v Clondegad (Sunday at 4pm in Cooraclare)
In many ways, it is no great surprise to see Miltown and Clondegad make up the final pairing for this year’s Cusack Cup.
The fact that it is the first time since 2010 that Kilmurry Ibrickane are not there is notable but we have known with a few weeks that the Bricks will be releasing their grip on the trophy after an incredible run of eight successive titles.
As county champions, Miltown were always on the shortlist to contest for silverware again this year and at the first time of asking they are now well in contention. David O’Brien’s charges finished top of the standings by virtue of their superior scoring difference which saw them straight through to the final. Ironically, it was the two teams that finished directly below them that were responsible for both their defeats as they lost out to Ennistymon and Clondegad in the group stages.
When assessing the teams most affected by inter-county commitments throughout the year, both Miltown and Clondegad would rank at the top. The return of these players to the fold this weekend will add a certain level of intrigue with some great contests in store. Much of that centres around the potentially match winning sibling battle between the Brennans and the Clearys. It remains to be seen if Cillian Brennan will be detailed to put try and put the shackles on Eoin Cleary, or will the resurgent Graham Kelly prove to be the direct opponent for the Clare full-back. The potential midfield contest of Gary Brennan and Conor Cleary could well prove key, while the promising Oisin Looney is also poised to play a crucial role in the middle third.
Tony Kelly made a huge impact when introduced to the action during his sides win over Ennistymon, and his presence will also pose plenty problems for the Miltown defence. Should Tony take up an attacking role, it could well fall to the evergreen Gordon Kelly to curb his influence while Eoin O’Brien could also be detailed in a man marking role. The return to full fitness of Paudge McMahon is a major positive for Mikey Hehir’s side and the former county man will also need watching.
Much of what Miltown create will centre on the influence of Eoin Cleary who will be well supported by fellow county men Cormac Murray and Kieran Malone. It looks to be the area where the county champions could potentially make the most hay, with Micheal Murray and Graham Kelly looking to continue their strong run of form so far in 2019. Clondegad will need big performances in defence from the likes of Joe Neylon and Brian Carrig as they face arguably the most dangerous forward line in the county.
After his brilliant haul of 3-6 against Ennistymon, Gary Brennan will be hoping to continue in that vein as Clondegad bid for just a second Cusack Cup title. His ghosting runs to the edge of the square will need to be tracked by the Miltown defence while cutting out the supply towards him will also be critical. All that sounds well and good on paper, but with the county captain in such strong form it will take a strong and disciplined defence performance to keep him from influencing the game. Kick-outs will be key to that and is likely that the Miltown management will have devised a strategy to keep the ball away from Brennan. Clondegad will likely counter that by pushing up on Sean O’Brien’s re-starts to try and force him into going long.
This has all the makings of a brilliant game of football with both sides playing an open attractive brand. With championship just around the corner, these two will be looking for a performance to carry them into the opening round. On paper, there is not much between them and that should also translate onto the scoreboard.
It might well be the case that the greater scoring options available to Miltown could swing the tie in their favour. On the other hand, Clondegad have been reliant on Gary Brennan for their scores but now with McMahon and Kelly coming back into the fray it might help relieve that pressure. It is a game that will likely to right down to the wire but it might just be Miltown who have their noses in front at the winning post.
Verdict: St Joseph’s Miltown
Garry Cup Final: Doonbeg v Kildysart (Saturday at 5.30pm in Cooraclare)
The Magpies warmed up for this showdown by hitting 4-12 against St Joseph’s Doora Barefield last weekend. The other side of that coin that will no doubt be bothering Daniel Ryan and his management team is that 4-9 was registered on the other side of the scoreboard.
Kildysart showed in their final group game against O’Curry’s that they are well capable of keeping their numbers spinning as they registered 1-19 to seal their promotion thanks to scoring difference.
Doonbeg will be hoping to have county veteran David Tubridy available for this game after he missed out last weekend due to illness.
When the sides met earlier in the group stages, it was Doonbeg who left Kildysart with a one point win on an evening when goals proved crucial.
It could well boil down to that again and an open game is expected here. Silverware is never to be disregarded but it really is bonus territory as both sides are already promoted back to the top tier. Lifting a trophy would be a boost ahead of the championship and both squads will be eager to hit that date in a positive frame of mind.
Tubridy’s involvement could prove crucial and if he is available for the Magpies, then that could be crucial. Another Tubridy was in flying form last weekend as Eoghan showed brilliantly in the corner forward role. Enda Doyle and Paraic Aherne continue to roll back the years while Paul Dillon is also leading the line with real maturity.
Kildysart will be boosted by their return to the top tier of the league as they bid to launch another bid to claim the intermediate championship. Emmet McMahon continues to build on his growing reputation while the likes of Seamus Casey and Diarmuid O’Donnell will also be central to their charge.
The advantage of having a competitive game in the lead up to the final could prove to be crucial for Doonbeg, and it could well be the Magpies who take the silverware.