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Feakle in control

ESB Apprentice Moneypoint

Clare Cup Division 1A Round 4
Feakle v Inagh-Kilnamona
at Feakle, Saturday, 4.30pm
(Jim Hickey)

Depending on results, Feakle could be Clare Cup champions for the first time since 1988 on Saturday evening. For all the arguments surrounding the condensed format, it would be a major boost for the squad, their new management team under PJ Kelleher and of course the club as this would be their first senior silverware since that historic double winning season 33 years earlier.
What has made their run all the more impressive is that they have been without key players which for a squad not renowned for its strength-in-depth will give Feakle great momentum for the championship, regardless of the outcome of the next two matches.
Inevitably however, the pressure ramps up for their remaining ties against the last finalists Inagh-Kilnamona and Kilmaley.
Inagh-Kilnamona, who have been affected much more by the absence of inter-county senior and Under 20 contingents, haven’t anything to play for as such but are trying to flesh out their options under a new backroom team headed by Eugene Cullinan.
And with the power to stop their opponents from potentially claiming the title, expect an experimental Inagh-Kilnamona to ask real questions of the home side.

Clooney-Quin v Kilmaley
at Clooney, Saturday, 4.30pm
(Wayne King)

It all seemed rosy after the opening round a month ago when both Clooney-Quin and Kilmaley began with confidence boosting opening wins over Cratloe and Ballyea respectively. However, neither have won a match since which has left them with just pride to play for for their remaining two ties. Stopping the rot is crucial especially for their newer recruits’ confidence ahead of a championship baptism of fire in August.
Holders Kilmaley were desperately unlucky not to get anything from their tie against Cratloe last time out but faced with the Group of Death in the championship, they need to be finding their rhythm sooner rather than later.
Not having won a championship match in two years, Clooney-Quin can’t afford to take anything for granted either in what they will view as an evenly-matched pool alongside neighbours Éire Óg and Newmarket as well as Feakle.
They’ll be little between the sides here too as both crave a triumph to jump start their season once more.

Ballyea v Clonlara
at Ballyea, Saturday, 7.30pm
(Jarlath Donnellan)

A repeat of that epic two match county final series of 2016 in name only as there will only be a handful of survivors on show. In what was the last competitive meeting between the pair, it would turn out to be a truly memorable breakthrough year for Ballyea but Clonlara did admirably pick themselves off the floor in what was their second successive county final defeat to secure the Clare Cup by year’s end.
They have an opportunity to do so again provided they exact revenge this weekend and also take down Clooney-Quin in the final round while hoping that leaders Feakle slip up along the way.
Both sides have been relatively unrecognisable in their make-up but while Ballyea are improving in personnel and confidence with every passing game, Clonlara will again be without the additional Under 20 contingent of Dylan mcMahon, Aidan Moriarty, Colm O’Meara.
So while Clon should be sufficiently motivated to keep themselves in the hunt for early silverware, it will ultimately all coming down to who’s available on either side of the divide.

Cratloe v Crusheen
at Cratloe, Saturday, 7.30pm
(Fearghal Gray)

A contrasting stream of results have given plenty of food for thought for this two time former county final pairing from 2010 and 2014 as they prepare to lock horns twice more in 2021.
Having also been paired in Group 3 of the senior championship alongside Ballyea and Broadford,
Crusheen under new manager Kevin Sheehan have been busy injecting new blood into an long established core, with players like Luke Ketelaar, Murrough McMahon, Oisin O’Donnell and Diarmuid Mullins provided the opportunity to impress.
While Crusheen have been competitive in all three ties to date, an encouraging opening display against Broadford has been offset by successive reverses to Feakle and Sixmilebridge whereas Cratloe started with a humbling defeat to Clooney-Quin before dramatic last gasp steals against Inagh-Kilnamona and Kilmaley.
A third successive victory by any means would throw Cratloe right back into the mix for the Clare Cup but despite home advantage their luck could run out this time around. Regardless though, it will be their championship clash that will be decisive.

Broadford v Sixmilebridge
at Broadford, Saturday, 4.30pm (Chris Maguire)

Similar to last year’s pioneering senior championship adventure, the slaying of one neighbour in Clonlara, only rekindled another local feud against Sixmilebridge.
Last year’s quarter-final derby didn’t quite go according to plan for Broadford especially in terms of shooting as the ‘Bridge prevailed by nine en route to retraining their Canon Hamilton crown.
If they have an eye on winning the Clare Cup, this is effectively another knock-out tie as only the winner will be in a position to pounce if Feakle falter.
Jimmy Browne and Co. will be encouraged that having delved deep into his pack, his new-look side have responded with two straight victories, a record that is identical to Sixmilebridge who appear to be shifting through the gears following an opening defeat to Feakle.
The ‘Bridge will be expected to maintain their hold over their neighbours but they will need other contenders to step up too as they will lose out on the head-to-head even if they can catch Feakle.

In Division 1B, coincidentally it’s the top half of the table against the lower half as joint-leaders O’Callaghan’s Mills (away to Smith O’Brien’s), Newmarket-on-Fergus (home against Clarecastle) and St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield (away to Wolfe Tones) look to sustain their unblemished records while Whitegate hope to bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Parish when traveling back to Ennis to face Éire Óg while Tulla are also bidding for a third victory of the campaign when they host Sixmilebridge’s second string on Saturday.

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