With Clarecastle and Feakle having defeated Broadford and Éire Óg respectively already this week, Eoin Brennan previews the rest of the Clare Cup Division 1A and B action with an array of interesting clashes in prospect
Clonlara v Sixmilebridge at Clonlara, Saturday 2pm (Rory McGann, Newmarket-on-Fergus)
As part of the reparation process post-lockdown is the long-awaited resumption of the Clonlara v Sixmilebridge derby which has been absent for the past three years. At the time, Sixmilebridge were on the cusp of what would eventually become back-to-back county titles for the first time in 27 years whereas Clonlara have had to be content with back-to-back senior B versions over the past two seasons.
Under new managements, it will be interesting to see how much water has flowed under the bridge in the intervening period as while they won’t be near full strength, the winner will remain in contention for Clare Cup honours.
Cratloe v Ballyea at Páirc Uí hEithir Cratloe, Saturday 2pm (Niall Malone, Éire Óg)
A repeat of both the 2018 county final as well as last year’s group decider that saw Ballyea produce a late turnaround on their way to Canon Hamilton success.
Finishing with 1-8 without reply to remarkably soar to their second ever title four years ago, a monster Niall Deasy free would subsequently secure a valuable draw in last year’s group decider with Cratloe that ensured top spot before finally taking down Cratloe’s conquerors Inagh-Kilnamona in the decider.
The main protagonists won’t be in situ this Saturday but in terms of avoiding the drop to 1B, it’s still an important tie to win, especially for a vengeful Cratloe.
Crusheen v Clooney-Quin at Crusheen, Saturday 3pm (Chris Maguire, Wolfe Tones)
Another welcome derby albeit that the sides last clashed as recently as six months ago when Clooney-Quin impressively brushed aside their neighbours by eight points in a crunch relegation clash.
Of course, that game never officially happened (nothing to see here!) but there is a strong sense of atonement required from both sides for 2022.
A victory is crucial here, not because of that previous result (or challenge match) but due to the fact that both are currently in a lull period, with previously unbeaten Crusheen faltering disappointingly against Sixmilebridge while Clooney-Quin have been rather blunt in back-to-back reverses to Ballyea and Feakle.
Inagh-Kilnamona v Kilmaley at Inagh, Saturday 3pm (Jim Hickey, Cratloe)
There’s nothing like an Inagh-Kilnamona v Kilmaley derby and while this essentially won’t be like most Inagh-Kilnamona v Kilmaley derbies due to the absence of key personnel, it still should provide plenty of food for thought on both sides of the divide.
Champions as recently as 2019, Kilmaley are back on top of the Division 1A table thanks to the only remaining unbeaten start, with Inagh-Kilnamona finally kick-starting their campaign last time out thanks to a rousing nine points victory over Ballyea in a reverse of November’s county final defeat.
Having also lost the 2019 Clare Cup Final to Kilmaley, Inagh-Kilnamona’s motivational revenge tour is set to continue on home soil on Saturday which is the perfect test of Kilmaley’s resolve too.
Clare Cup Division 1B Round 4
Wolfe Tones v Scariff at Shannon, Saturday 2pm (Kieran Liddane, Sixmilebridge)
With nothing tangible to show from their first three matches, this is a glorious opportunity for both Wolfe Tones and Scariff to resuscitate their Clare Cup campaign.
While Wolfe Tones easily prevailed in a pivotal opening senior championship clash last August, Scariff have made the better progress since and having made the independent leap back to the Clare Cup this year, they now need to garnish that ambition with confidence-boosting wins before championship.
Tulla v St. Joseph’s Doora/Barefield at Dr. Daly Park Tulla, Saturday 2pm (Kevin Corry, Sixmilebridge)
Having been handed a major reprieve with no teams being relegation from senior for 2022, these main favourites for the intermediate championship have an ideal early marker to gauge their progress.
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield have held the upper hand so far with a perfect start of victories over senior sides Scariff and Éire Óg whereas following a gritty opening win over the Tones, Tulla have slumped to successive losses at the hands of the Townies and Whitegate.
Whitegate v Smith O’Briens at Whitegate, Saturday 2pm (Fearghal Gray, Feakle)
It will be another hugely emotional afternoon in Whitegate as the home side pick up their Hurleys for the first time since key player’s Michael Hynes’ untimely passing.
Hurling will clearly be secondary but being a Lough Derg derby is perhaps the perfect backdrop once the ball is thrown in as it’s the first time that the neighbours have met as two senior sides since Smith O’Brien’s relegated their hosts in 2012.
Newmarket-on-Fergus v O’Callaghan’s Mills at Fr. Murphy Memorial Park Newmarket-on-Fergus, Saturday 2pm (Fergal O’Brien, Broadford)
An early top of the table clash that could well be crucial in the promotion race. Newmarket have been a step ahead of anyone in the second tier so far with three consecutive victories, scoring seven goals in the process while the Mills have also garnered seven goals albeit that they sandwiched a sole defeat to Clarecastle with sizeable victories over Éire Óg and Scariff