Eoin Brennan previews the first of this weekend’s senior hurling championship semi-finals
Inagh-Kilnamona v Éire Óg
at Cusack Park,
Opportunity knocks for either Inagh-Kilnamona or Éire Óg in what is arguably one of the most important matches in their entire history.
Both have been hammering at the door but frustratingly always seemed to come up short against a more experienced opponents when needed most.
However, with the Townies taking out three-in-a-row chasing Sixmilebridge last time out, the Canon Hamilton race has been blown wide open but only one of these candidates can earn a long-awaited place in the final.
Since permanently amalgamating in 2008, Inagh-Kilnamona haven’t yet been able to perfect the art of alchemy of turning underage talent into senior success.
There were previous close calls in the 2012 and 2019 semi-finals but it’s only this year that their maturity has been noteworthy, having emerged through the group of death unscathed before seeing off another main rival in Cratloe at the quarter-final berth.
Their county representatives, most notably the McCarthy brothers Aidan and Jason, along with David Fitzgerald and Under 20 Conner Hegarty have consistently been their main performers in an unbeaten championship campaign that has seen them crucially able to roll with the punches, play more as a collective rather than talented individuals and also never reach for the panic button.
Éire Óg meanwhile have rather operated below the radar to an extent as their heightened billing in previous seasons dissipated when, without David Reidy, Aaron Fitzgerald and Shane O’Donnell from the start, they were edged out by Newmarket in the opening round.
It has meant that every match has been a county final since, something which has rather suited the Ennis side’s determined mentality.
And with their footballers, for whom their is a crossover of almost half a team between both codes, making the breakthrough to the senior decider for the first time since 2014 seven days previously, confidence certainly won’t be an issue for their hurling counterparts this Saturday.
Amazingly, it’s 18 years since Éire Óg last tasted a senior hurling final and a full 31 years since their last Canon Hamilton victory so that carrot alone should trump any fatigue from their full-blown dual commitments over the past three months.
Inagh-Kilnamona also have football finalists in Kilmurry Ibrickane duo Aidan and Jason McCarthy, with the former nursing a hamstring injury when retiring before the hour had elapsed last Sunday against Lissycasey.
With concerns also over key man-marker Keith White, Inagh-Kilnamona’s options could be curtailed as they will need both to be firing on all cylinders to prevail.
Éire Óg meanwhile have an abundance of quality man-markers in Aaron Fitzgerald, Ciaran Russell, Liam Corry and Jarlath Collins while up the other end David Reidy, Shane O’Donnell and Danny Russell will all take minding, not to mention the return of Dara Walsh to the fold.
Such a variety of options does tilt the balance ever so slightly in Éire Óg’s favour but it’s a toss of a coin call really.
Verdict: Éire Óg