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Swashbuckling Corofin have had a good time of it since their elevation to the top tier, but some naivety was exposed by Éire Óg in the group stages and they will have to tighten up on Sunday.

Four square off with football final spot up for grabs


And then there were four…Eoin Brennan previews this weekend’s senior football championship semi-finals

Kilmurry Ibrickane v Ennistymon at Cusack Park Ennis, Saturday 4pm

Remarkably, their group clash eight weeks previously proved the catalyst for both sides to ignite their championship challenge but this time around it’s winner-takes-all for a coveted place in the final.

Bouncing back from an opening defeat to Clondegad, Ennistymon’s transformation from being an underwhelming attacking side to an effective defensive structure certainly caught Kilmurry Ibrickane unawares as the North Clare Magpies ground out a 1-9 to 0-9 victory on their way to sealing top spot in the group.

It would be an equally impactful juncture for the ‘Bricks who knew that if they were to survive, they would have to win every remaining match and it was that necessity that drove them to new heights in the second period against previously unbeaten Clondegad a fortnight later.

The 2020 champions haven’t looked back since as along with their rich vein of form, their squad is also getting stronger with every passing match.

After all, Keelan Sexton barely had time to get through passport control from his sojourn in the US when having to take to the field against Ennistymon in Round 2 but the county senior has since caught fire as evidenced by his handsome 1-8 haul against Cratloe last time out.

Dermot Coughlan, Darren Hickey, Shane Hickey, Diarmuid King, Michael O’Dwyer and Mark Killeen are all welcome additions this year following injury over the past 12 months while the addition of much heralded former Caoilfhinn O’Dea is another valuable option for last year’s finalists.

The thing is that Ennistymon have predominantly had the Indian sign over the ‘Bricks in recent meetings, having knocked them out of the championship in 2015 (Round 3) and 2018 (Semi-Final).

Their tactical approach has been much different this season which reaped benefits for both their flagship and second string who also contested the intermediate semi-final despite only being up from Junior A.

With Kilmurry Ibrickane putting a huge emphasis on opposition analysis, it will be interesting to see if Ennistymon have an ace up their sleeve as they will know that James Murrihy and Co. will have been plotting to topple their ultra-conservative set-up following that group reverse.

There’s no better team to learn from past discretions though and with a variety of options and gameplans, one would expect Kilmurry Ibrickane to try to hit the ground running and make Ennistymon have to come out of their defensive shell.

Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane

Éire Óg v Corofin at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 1pm

Speaking of learning from the past, this intriguing battle of the senior and intermediate champions Mark II will only live up to its heightened billing if Corofin can evolve from their group defeat to the Townies a mere six weeks earlier.

It has been their exciting brand of swift attacking football that got them back to senior in the first place while swashbuckling high-scoring victories over St Joseph’s Miltown and Lissycasey have only copperfastened their assimilation back into the top tier.

Put simply however, they were a little naive to try and go toe-to-toe with Éire Óg last time out as they left themselves far too open. Indeed, Gavin Cooney had the ball in Corofin’s net after only 14 seconds while Manus Doherty added a second to ensure that the Townies, despite not needing to win the tie, were unassailably ten points clear by the one-third mark.

Corofin cannot afford to be as inviting again as Éire Óg are simply devastating on the counter and can really punish any Corofin defensive lapses.

For instance, what do the intermediate champions do to try and curb the Ennis side’s twin threats of Mark McInerney (5-14) and Gavin Cooney (2-22) that have combined for a whopping 85% of their side’s scores.

Of course, the Townies are much more than just those two lethal finishers as their miserly defence is still to cough up a single goal chance not to mind leaking any goal while their marquee defenders of Manus Doherty, Einne O’Connor, Ciaran Russell and Aaron Fitzgerald are equally adept at raiding forward at every available opportunity.

This is a well oiled collective machine that have only grown in stature since their Jack Daly success last year as they are now backed by the assuredness of being champions.

The only set-backs for both sides will be the toll their dual championship bids have taken on their squad as Éire Óg and Corofin both went all the way to extra-time in their respective hurling semi-finals last Sunday.

That said, Éire Óg’s pockets are deeper when it comes to evaluating both benches and that could be another deciding factor when it comes down to it on their latest Super Sunday.

Verdict: Éire Óg

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