Éire Óg v Kilmurry Ibrickane
at Cusack Park Ennis,
(Jim Hickey, Cratloe)
When it comes to finals, Kilmurry Ibrickane’s ability to grind out victories is almost metronomic at this stage.
Only that ultimate attritional derby showdown against St Joseph’s Miltown that went all the way to a replay in 2019 has blotted their copybook that now stands at seven wins in eight deciders since 2008.
It’s a feat that Éire Óg can only dream about as this is only their third final since the last of their 18 titles in 2006. That is has taken so long for the Townies to even reach a first semi-final since 2014 is almost incredible considering their underage success that included four Under 21A crowns in six seasons (2013, ’14, ’15 and ’18).
However, regardless of past indiscretions, now that they’re finally there, they will be determined to make the most of this golden opportunity.
All because they have momentum on their side, having appeared to finally hone their gameplan in the semi-final two weeks previously when blowing away the potential troublesome attacking force of St Breckan’s.
The addition of Limerick coach Seanie Buckley has certainly tightened up their tactical nous as demonstrated to perfection against St Breckan’s last time out when withdrawing en masse when losing possession but having the ability to counter-attack with pace when they do win back the ball.
It was a tactic utilised effectively by his Drom-Broadford side who certainly built up a keen rivalry with Kilmurry Ibrickane that began in the Munster Club Final of 2008.
It meant Kilmurry Ibrickane had to evolve their gameplay accordingly too and currently operate not too dissimilar to Éire Óg which should only add to the intrigue of Sunday’s encounter.
The Ennis side also possess the superior panel with an array of attacking options from the bench that have included Eimhin Courtney, Dara Walsh and Paddy O’Malley.
That’s a luxury that Kilmurry Ibrickane used to have but their high turnover of players in recent seasons that includes long term injuries for Shane Hickey, Dermot Coughlan and Diarmuid King in 2021 alone means that the holders are rather light when it comes to experienced back-up.
That said, while Éire Óg are on the crest of a wave, Kilmurry Ibrickane’s experience is a major plus in their pros column.
Their vast final experience has to be beneficial against an Éire Óg side that have only a handful of survivors from their final appearance in 2014.
More than that though, the likes of Martin McMahon, Enda Coughlan, Darren Hickey and even newer leaders such as Keelan Sexton, Ciaran Morrissey and Darragh Sexton are experts in being able to steer the ship in a final, a guile that only comes with experience.
What will shape this final however will be injuries to key players as Éire Óg captain Gavin Cooney (quad) and Kilmurry Ibrickane’s midfield engine Aidan McCarthy (hamstring) are in a race against time to make the final.
Cooney along with Mark McInerney have combined for two-thirds of the Townies scores so far while Aidan McCarthy has been a pivotal linkman and ball carrier for the defending champions.
It all points towards a fascinating contest that will see Kilmurry Ibrickane’s more prolific attacking division collide with a miserly Éire Óg rearguard that is yet to concede a goal and have actually only conceded an average of seven points per match.
Bidding for a first Jack Daly in 15 years, Éire Óg will never get a better chance to open a new chapter but when it comes to finals, it’s difficult to back against the ‘Bricks who despite several setbacks along this year’s journey always seem to somehow find a way.
Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane
by Eoin Brennan