HAVING emerged from completely contrasting starting blocks, Éire Óg and Ennistymon have also hand differing preparations in the lead-up to this first time final pairing.
Of course, having underwhelmed in their relentless pursuit of the Jack Daly, the only surprise about Éire Óg’s 15 year breakthrough last November was that it hadn’t come sooner such was their potent line-up on paper.
However, what hasn’t been a surprise is that the Townies are determined to make up for lost time by easing through this year’s championship to maintain their perfect nine match winning championship record.
Even more impressively, they have almost seamlessly smoothed over the absence of Conall Ó hAiniféin, David Reidy, Nathan Murray, Eimhin Courtney and Dara Walsh, a remarklable feat in itself considering their contributions to that title-winning journey in 2021.
Ennistymon meanwhile looked to have missed the boat in 2018 as for all their underage dominance over the past decade, the North Clare Magpies increasingly looked as if the transition to adult success wasn’t going to fully materialise.
However, the brave punt to concentrate on bringing through fresh blood, while potentially risky, has reaped full rewards.
Even ahead of their own managements expectations, they have managed to negotiate their path through a series of inch-tight encounters, most notably their repeated resurrections against Kilmurry Ibrickane last time out before finally edging the day on penalties.
Without any senior scars or fear, Ennistymon’s new generation will pose a tricky prospect for Éire Óg who would have expected the ‘Bricks to prevail for a second successive decider showdown.
Throw in the Townies’ devastating senior hurling final defeat at the death to Ballyea last Sunday at the same venue and it’s how they react to that set-back which will define this final.
As they were for the hurlers, Aaron Fitzgerald, Ciaran Russell, Gavin Cooney, Oran Cahill, David McNamara, Adrian McGrath, Jarlath Collins and Niall McMahon are integral cogs in the footballers’ wheel in a lethal counter-attack formation that requires an immense work ethic and energy to fully implement.
Therefore any hangover from the hurling final could easily upset that balance as with this being their 12th match in just 14 weeks, it would be tough on Éire Óg to falter or display the wounds of battle at the final hurdle.
Ennistymon will inevitably look to put doubts in Éire Óg’s heads from the outset, just as they did in their last five matches since falling to Clondegad in the opening round.
Led by the superb Rouine brothers Cillian and Brendy, Ennistymon have also brushed off injuries for key players Cathal Malone, Kevin Hehir, Sean O’Driscoll and Diarmuid Fahy to bring a real momentum into Sunday’s decider.
Considering their vast inter-county experience, it’s difficult to see Éire Óg lose their composure though especially having been down this road before as a key trait of their success to date has been their patience and ability to perfectly time their runs.
Outstanding inside forwards Gavin Cooney and Mark McInerney will be tightly marshalled but that can open the door for others to prosper as Éire Óg possess a sizeable variety of attacking reinforcements especially from the back as Aaron Fitzgerald, Manus Doherty and a pivotal half-back unit of Einne O’Connor, Adrian McGrath and Ciaran Russell.
Consequently the holders will pose a far stiffer test than anything this young Ennistymon side have experienced before.
And while they are expected to match the Townies blow-for-blow, the champions should have enough experience, guile, threat and balance to garner their first back-to-back crowns since the Ennis Faughs 74 years previously.
Ennistymon v Éire Óg at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 2pm
Referee: Chris Maguire, Wolfe Tones
Verdict: Éire Óg