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Cathal Malone of Ennistymon: "While it’s frustrating, I can’t complain because Ennistymon are in a county final and I’m just trying to help players in any way possible."

Malone lending his experience to exciting young talent

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For any guest passing through the Falls Hotel reception last Thursday evening, they would have been forgiven for thinking that they were witnessing more of a casualty ward than a press night.

After all, with injured players Cathal Malone (groin), Sean O’Driscoll (quad) and Kevin Hehir (knee) either limping or on crutches, it seemed as if the interview process was more akin to a therapy session. Even Club President Kieran Crowe is eagerly-awaiting his hip replacement operation only two days after the county final.

The Galway native and Garda journeyman actually played for the Ennis Faughs in 1957 but was first stationed in Ennistymon in 1969 and aside from brief stints elsewhere has been a community fixture ever since and has been an integral part of the club’s development.

“I just feel that if we could win one, we could stay at the top for a while.” began the 87-year-young president.

“You look at the likes of Miltown and Kilmurry Ibrickane, they haven’t won anything like we have at underage and yet they have been able to win senior championships so hopefully we can get over the line this time.

“Our luck has been in so far so fingers crossed that we can make the breakthrough. It would be great for all those brilliant young lads.”

Aiding that exciting crop of underage talent is their only county winning player Cathal Malone who allied to four senior hurling crowns with Sixmilebridge, has also excelled at inter-county level with back-to-back All Star nominations in 2020 and ’21 before proudly captaining Clare at championship level against Waterford this summer.

Unfortunately that series of highs was disrupted by a groin injury that has seen the dual star miss the business end of both championships as while Ennistymon thrived after extra-time in their semi-final, Sixmilebridge perished at the same 80 minute juncture.

“Of course, you want to play in big games and they don’t come much bigger than this from a club perspective anyway.

“But while it’s frustrating, I can’t complain because Ennistymon are in a county final and I’m just trying to help players in any way possible. Especially coming into the final, there are a lot of lads that weren’t around in 2018.

“I mean the average age is around 21 or 22 so there were a few players asking already for advice on different things so anything I can do to help I will over the next few days as we all have a role to play regardless of whether you can make it on the field or not.”

“We’ve gotten unlucky with injuries, especially Kev [Hehir] because he has had a massive influence on all the games. He was dogged by injuries during the group stages so it’s really disappointing because he’s such a good player.

“In fairness to Burdo [Manager Mark Shanahan] and Ger [Quinlan], they’ve put a massive belief in the younger players such as Sean Rynne, Diarmuid [Fahy] and Brendy [Rouine] who is such an exceptional player and we’ve seen the massive work that has been put into the underage ranks which is starting to blossom through at senior and intermediate level too.

“I suppose the younger lads just don’t have the baggage of losing games or are used to be knocked out. That’s another thing that the management have instilled in us that we just have to keep playing until the final whistle and they did that, especially in the semi-final against Kilmurry Ibrickane. They don’t have any scars, they’re just enjoying it.”

Éire Óg are also relishing their current kingpin status, having been in the doldrums for the previous 15 seasons. Cathal Malone knows more than most about the weekly switch between codes and also the momentum that the defending champions will bring into Sunday’s showdown.

“Fair play to them, It shows that they’re an exceptional club, the way that they’re able to manage the hurling and football. They have a decent crossover of players between the two so the way that they have been able to manage both week-in and week-out has to be admired.

“Realistically, at the start of the championship, you’d have probably said that Éire Óg are favourites so we know that we’ve a massive challenge ahead because we wouldn’t have been considered anywhere near the top four or five before a ball was kicked in the championship and we have kind of been scraping through every game.

“It has almost come down to the last kick of the ball in every game so we know that we have a massive test ahead of us but we just have to focus on us and try get the best out of ourselves on Sunday.”

About Eoin Brennan

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