Doonbeg and Kilrush will head for Cooraclare for Saturday’s 6.30pm throw-in with a knot in their collective stomachs. Defeat or even a draw will knock out Kilrush, unless O’Curry’s stun Cooraclare that same evening in Doonbeg. This is complicated. If Cooraclare lose, both Kilrush and Doonbeg will qualify, no matter the result in their game.
Defeat could derail Doonbeg if Cooraclare beat O’Curry’s by nine points. Doonbeg have a scoring difference of plus eight, following their two games so far, while Coorclare’s stands at zero. They have conceded and scored 1-17. Although Doonbeg have won both of their group games, their scoring difference is two points less than Kilrush. So if Kilrush win they will go ahead of Doonbeg on scoring difference, while Cooraclare will only overtake Kilrush if they beat O’Curry’s by nine points.
If you have made it down this far, well done. Everything will be much simpler if Doonbeg and Cooraclare win. Both of these results are the likelier eventualities.
Although Doonbeg didn’t play free-flowing or very convincing football against O’Curry’s in their opening win last June, they did enough. They utilised David Tubridy effectively against Cooraclare, isolating him and Shane Ryan, while pulling up to 12 players behind the ball at times.
Their set-up makes them hard to break down, although if Kilrush can curtail Tubridy and Ryan, Doonbeg’s attacking threat will be manifestly reduced. They will need their half-forward line to impose themselves more than they have done thus far in the championship, while Kilrush could opt to put a runner on David Downes at centre-back and drag him out of position.
Kilrush’s second-half display against O’Curry’s camouflaged a poor opening 30 minutes, even though their first score was a goal.
If Donal O’Sullivan doesn’t shake off a knee injury he will be a massive loss at midfield, where John Moody will have to show what he’s made of, alongside Paddy Clancy.
Kilrush will surely start Padjoe McGrath, who played well when introduced against O’Curry’s, while elsewhere they will need big inputs from Chris Dixon, Cathal Lyons, John Hayes and Con O’Brien.
McGrath and Rory O’Connor will have to produce displays on a par with their O’Curry’s performances, to back up Peadar McMahon and Jim Young, whom the Kilrush attack still rely on.
With Conor Whelan and Pádraig Gallagher in their full-back line, Doonbeg don’t leak much in that area, while Colm Dillon should win first-phase ball at midfield.
Tubridy, Ryan and Shane Killeen are their key men in attack, with Cathal Lyons or Chris Dixon likely to pick up Tubridy.
The group winners will play either Éire Óg or Shannon Gaels in the quarter-final. Doonbeg should win narrowly in what is likely to be a low-scoring contest.
Cooraclare will be warm favourites against O’Curry’s in Doonbeg. Aidan Moloney’s team opened the championship with an impressive display and win over Kilrush last June before losing to Doonbeg two weeks’ ago. They found it hard to find some fluency that day, with John Looney and Rory Donnelly threatening only periodically in attack.
O’Curry’s fell away against Kilrush last time out and were beaten well eventually. With a minus-18 scoring difference, they have virtually no chance of making the last eight but if they beat Cooraclare, they won’t have to worry about a relegation semi-final.
Such is the closeness of this group, Cooraclare could end up in the championship quarter-final or relegation semi-final come 8pm on Saturday evening.
It would be a major shock though if O’Curry’s win. Cooraclare know that their year is on the line this weekend and will be totally focused on achieving a performance followed by a result.
They should win by five or six points and join Doonbeg in the quarter-final.
Kilmurry and Liscannor should have the edge
Before Miltown beat Doonbeg in the semi-final of the Cusack Cup and subsequently won it, they wouldn’t have been given any chance of defeating Kilmurry-Ibrickane in their final championship group game. The landscape has changed significantly in recent weeks however, and the Clare and Munster champions will prepare for their neighbourly Group 4 battle knowing that if they are not ready, Miltown have what it takes to beat them in Ennistymon at 6.15pm on Sunday evening.
What might soften Kilmurry’s approach is their knowledge that, unless they are hammered, they will still make the quarter-finals. Miltown know that they must win to remain in control of their own destiny.
So far, Kilmurry have won both their group games against Kilkee and Liscannor, while Miltown lost to Liscannor but impressively defeated Kilkee last time out.
If Miltown lose, they need Kilkee to defeat Liscannor and hope that scoring averages help the Cusack Cup holders into the last eight and a meeting with a team from Group 1, which includes Cratloe, Doora-Barefield and Ennistymon.
Michael Barry played outstanding football against Kilkee two weeks ago, while Miltown also had excellent displays from John Meade, Gary Egan and Eoin Curtin. Conor O’Loughlin is having a great year in goals, while Graham and Gordon Kelly added real steel to the Miltown rearguard.
Under Martin Keavey, Martin Cahill and now Seán Dempsey, Kilmurry are still the team to beat in Clare. Beaten in the March 17 All-Ireland club final, Kilmurry are chasing three in a row, something that the club has never achieved. Although they didn’t exactly torment the umpires with a succession of scores against Liscannor a fortnight ago, Kilmurry still won and all but secured their place in the quarter-final with a match to spare.
Players such as Declan Callinan, the O’Dwyer’s, the Hickeys, Stephen Moloney and Enda Coughlan know that they are now just six weeks away from county final day on October 3. If they can build up some steady momentum, they will be very difficult to stop.
First though they wouldn’t mind calling a halt to Miltown’s recent gallop and in the process help to end their championship season. As long as Kilmurry are focused and ready for a big battle, they should see off Miltown.
In the second group game, which will be played in Kilmihil at 6.15pm on Sunday evening, Liscannor know that a win should propel them into the last eight, provided that Miltown don’t edge them out on scoring averages.
Well beaten by Kilmurry Ibrickane, Kilkee improved significantly against Miltown but they did throw away a six-point lead that they built up in the opening 20 minutes.
They will need to keep it going for much longer this time if they are to pick up their first points of the 2010 championship. Kilkee will look to Darragh Kelly and Brian Clancy in defence, Kevin Larkin at midfield alongside possibly David Russell, Gearóid Lynch and Michael O’Shea in attack to help them to victory. If Kilkee lose they will be into a relegation semi-final, while a loss for Liscannor could result in them being in the same situation if Miltown defeat Kilmurry.
If Kilkee have maintained their work on the training field in recent weeks, under Aidan O’Keeffe, they will have a great chance of winning. Liscannor are very doughty opponents though with players such as Ronan Slattery, the Considines and Alan Flaherty leading them.
They should have enough to overcome Kilkee but Liscannor will have to score a lot more than the three points they managed against Kilmurry-Ibrickane in their last game.