The line up for this year’s Clare Cup final will be completed this weekend.
Clare Cup Semi-Final: Inagh/Kilnamona v Sixmilebridge (Saturday in Tulla at 4pm)
Two of the powerhouses of Clare hurling face off this weekend to try and secure their place in the Clare Cup final.
The sides met each other in Round 1 of the competition and Inagh-Kilnamona were victorious. Much water has passed under the bridge since then and indeed Sixmilebridge have gained ground on their rivals since the first week, with both sides finishing with the exact same amount of points, wins, losses and draws.
It promises to be a very tight encounter, with both sides welcoming back returning county players and holidaying players, as the championship fast approaches and the intensity is likely to be more akin to championship pace.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Inagh-Kilnamona manager Fergal Hegarty believes that clubs are hitting their peak after the group stage of the Clare Cup.
“The Clare Cup is a great competition in its own right but teams now are getting everyone back, whether it’s county players or people away, so this Saturday’s game is likely to be closer to championship pace.
“The Clare Cup has been competitive all through the year and for the first year it will be concluded before championship starts, so the remaining games now will be played at full pace.
“We played Sixmilebridge at the very start and the conditions were very bad underfoot, so it will have absolutely no bearing on our prep. To be honest, I can’t really remember what went on in that game, so it is a completely new game this weekend,” he said.
There’s no doubting that Clare Cup affords fringe players a chance to make their mark and this maintains a certain level of intensity, Sixmilebridge manager Tim Crowe believes. He also says he has seen a change in Clare hurling played out in the Clare Cup that he believes is benefiting some teams.
“It is only really now that clubs are getting a framework into their team, with everyone having other commitments throughout the summer. We learned through that first game with Inagh-Kilnamona that they’re a very good team and I have a theory that I think I’ve seen throughout this year’s Clare Cup.
“Four of the most powerful clubs in Clare, Kilmaley, Ballyea, Inagh-Kilnamona and Cratloe, all have players with a football strain going through them. Hurling is going more and more toward the football style of running off the ball and, the more traditional clubs wouldn’t have bought into that before but now they have had to in recent years and that means a bit of catch up. I think these clubs with players that play football have a huge advantage at the minute.
“I think we have a bit of catching up to do on those four clubs,” Crowe said.