THE 2011 Division 1 Cusack Cup will throw in at 2pm on Sunday in Miltown, Gurteen, Doonbeg and Ballynacally. The games have been fixed for Sunday because the Clare U-21 footballers have a challenge game away to Mayo on Saturday.
All of the fixtures have at least one player involved in that panel.
Cusack Cup champions Miltown host Kilrush in Hennessy Memorial Park, complete with the club’s new stand. League wise Kilrush will be approaching this game fairly confidently,as they won the Division 2 Garry Cup last year. Both teams will be very keen to get their campaign off to a positive start and perhaps home advantage should help Miltown to an opening win. Even though they lost their first two games last year, they ended up winning the Cusack Cup so defeat in round one does not necessarily have long-term implications.
The other St Joseph’s (Doora-Barefield) will take on Kilmurry Ibrickane in Gurteen in a fixture that has never taken place before as St Joseph’s will compete for the first time in Cusack Cup Division 1. They were beaten in the 2010 Garry Cup final but getting to the decider ensured promotion. Their year ended in serious disappointment when they threw away a decent lead in the last five minutes of their championship quarter-final replay against Liscannor in Kilmihil.
Still, winning league promotion was a definite forward step and will help Barefield, who are an evolving team, to become even more competitive and battle-hardened come championship.
Although Kilmurry have an overseas social engagement this weekend, which could test their resolve if this happens to be a tight game, they should have the personnel to win a tight game under new manager Ger Lawlor.
County champions Doonbeg host Shannon Gaels in Shanahan McNamara Park. In Gerry Killeen, who has joined the Gaels management team, they will have a man who knows his way around his club home ground. Having won their first championship since 2001 last October, Doonbeg will be very determined to maintain their winning habit. Doonbeg recorded a three-point win when the teams met in the Cusack Cup last year, while they won the side’s championship quarter-final meeting by a point.
In their opening Cusack Cup game last year Shannon Gaels were well beaten by Clondegad, although the Gaels subsequently reached their first final since 1946, where they lost to Miltown. They will hope to be much more competitive this weekend in their opening game but Doonbeg will still be favoured to win on home ground.
In the fourth Cusack Cup fixture, again at 2pm, Clondegad host Liscannor in Ballynacally. The home team made a blistering start to last year’s campaign. While they were very disappointed to lose the intermediate championship final to Liscannor, they can at least find some solace in the fact that they are playing Division 1 league for the second successive season.
Liscannor lost their early games last season before finding a run of form that took them to safety and onwards to the county final. Depending on their level of interest at this time of the year, they should be capable of winning on Sunday.
While it is perhaps a little early in the year to be arguing with the fixtures committee, it was an unusual decision to fix seven of the eight Cusack Cup and Garry Cup games for 2pm on Sunday. Perhaps some games could have been fixed for 12noon, 1.45pm and perhaps 3pm. While not many people would perhaps attend more than one, now they have no choice.
One Garry Cup fixture will take place on Saturday at 6.30pm in Cooraclare. The home club play Wolfe Tones, who won the Senior B Championship last year. Cooraclare, who won the Cusack Cup two years ago, were relegated last year but reached the county semi-final. Both clubs will be minus some important players, with Wolfe Tones particularly hard hit by emigration. That should leave Cooraclare in with a great chance of making a winning start.
Elsewhere, Martin Daly will make his debut as manager of Éire Óg when they travel to Doonaha to play O’Curry’s. With Dinny McMahon back involved with O’Curry’s, they will be highly motivated but the big test for them is how they deal with the disappointment of relegation from senior championship. As long as Éire Óg are up for it, they should win.
Kilkee host Lissycasey again at 2pm on Sunday. Aidan O’Keeffe is back in charge of The Blues, while Barry Keating and Ger Keane have teamed up in Lissycasey. It will take a bit of getting used to for the latter to be plotting how to beat his own club on their own ground in his first competitive match involved with Lissycasey. This is a tricky one to call. Lissycasey have a young panel and could take time to develop, while Kilkee are not noted for soaring motivation levels this early in the year. They might pull this one off though.
In the fourth Garry Cup fixture, Ennistymon play Kildysart at home. Kildysart won the Division 3 league last year and will definitely improve further from playing a higher level of league football.
However, Ennistymon should have enough to pick up a couple of early points.