KILMALEY’S failure to add a third Clare senior title to their collection has been a big talking point amongst officials and supporters of the club in recent times.
When the club won their second Hamilton Trophy title in 2005, it was thought that a number of successes would follow but they have failed to reach the final since then.
Last year they won the minor A title, which augurs well for the club but it may be a few years before the minor success will lead to senior silverware.
While they still have a good sprinkling of experienced players in their squad, the loss of Colin Lynch means they are without one of the stars of the club hurling scene over the last decade.
They will be looking to Alan Markham, Diarmuid and Conor McMahon to provide the leadership for a team that is expected to include Conor Neylon and Noel Casey from last year’s All-Ireland winning Clare U-21 panel. The Talty brothers, Sean and Padraig, and Kenneth Kennedy are also expected to feature in the side, which has Kieran Dillon back between the posts.
Michael O’Neill and Conor Clancy will miss the game due to suspension, Brian McMahon and Dermot Neylon are working outside the country and are unavailable, while county minor player Daire Keane is a major doubt due to injury.
“We will have a number of new players to senior championship hurling in the squad and we know that we are up against a Scariff side that will be expected to win. There is the Mike Mac factor and he is sure to have Scariff in great shape. We will give it our best shot,” said Kilmaley boss John Carmody.
Scariff had a poor start to the league but they have shown improved form in recent weeks. Last year they were flying in the early stages of the league but their form dipped mid-season and they ended up in a relegation play-off to avoid dropping down a grade.
The return of Barry Murphy adds experience to the side and they will also be looking to the likes of Conor and Kenny McNamara, Ross Horan, Darragh Kelly and goalkeeper Brendan McNamara as they chase a winning start to their championship campaign.
Team captain Padraig Brody is a definite non-starter for the game because of a hip injury.
“It’s one game at a time for us and all our focus at this time is on the Kilmaley game,” according to Scariff selector Mark McKenna.
Scariff’s greater experience should earn them a narrow win.
The other game in this group will see Clooney-Quin take on Broadford. The tie is set for Saturday in Cusack Park.
Clooney-Quin have shown mixed form in the league this season, while Broadford, who are in the next division, are unbeaten to date.
Clooney-Quin have lost Brian Shally and Pa Reynolds from last year. Shally is in Australia, while Reynolds hasn’t played this year due to a knee injury.
Broadford have concerns about Alan Kilcoyne and Aonghus O’Brien, both of whom missed their last league tie due to injury. A final decision on their fitness won’t be made until later in the week.
“Getting out of the group is priority number one but we need to show some consistency,” Clooney-Quin boss Pat O’Rourke said.
The last championship clash of the sides was in the intermediate semi-final five years ago when Clooney-Quin won on their way to the county and Munster crowns. “They are two different teams now,” according to O’Rourke.
“It’s a very difficult group and Clooney-Quin are a very experienced team that many would fancy to win the title so we are up against it,” commented Broadford manager John O’Brien.
A lot will depend on which Clooney-Quin side turns up for this one. On form, they can match the best but consistency has been a major problem for them. They will be looking to the likes of Conor Harrisson, Fergal Lynch, Cillian Duggan and Cathal Egan to lead the way.
Broadford have been doing well all season and may just edge this one with good displays from the Chaplins, the Gunnings, the O’Briens and the Corcorans.