Eoin Brennan gives his take on the deferred Junior A hurling final, while Ivan Smyth catches up with the managers of Crusheen and Ogonnelloe ahead of Sunday’s clash
Junior A Hurling
Ogonnelloe v Crusheen
at Knockalisheen Park,
In terms of club development, there’s conflicting mentalities entering Sunday’s decider. There’s no question about the buzz surrounding Ogonnelloe which, following their beneficial underage amalgamation with Scariff, has finally started to produce young talent to populate their flagship side after scraping the barrel in terms of numbers in recent seasons.
An unblemished ten match league and championship run which included a real scare against Clooney-Quin last time out has armed Ogonnelloe with all the ingredients and confidence to finally bridge a 33 year gap to their last Junior A crown and it would be a major step in the right direction.
On the flip, what started as an encouraging sign of the strength of their adult wing for Crusheen has turned a bit sour in recent weeks as while the junior side have been winning matches with aplomb, their senior club-mates became embroiled in an ill-fated battle for survival that has seen them have to dip into the junior side, most notably former Clare captain Gerry O’Grady, to try and keep themselves afloat.
Crusheen’s relegation means that Sunday’s final is a major opportunity to lift the spirits within the club, even if it does mean that, appeals aside, they could well have two intermediate teams in 2022.
However, for Ogonnelloe, this is their sole focus and if they can maintain their previous form following the sizeable gap, a return to the second tier and the completion of a league (Division 3) and championship double would be the perfect finale to 2021.
Griffin hoping Crusheen can produce year’s best display
Crusheen’s Junior A manager Alan Griffin is hopeful his side will produce their best display of the year when they come up against Ogonnelloe in this weekend’s county final, writes Ivan Smyth.
The finalists responded to a defeat in their final group game when they beat Kilmaley in the quarter final by one point with a late Gerry O’Grady goal helping them progress. Griffin believes this narrow win helped instil belief among his charges.
“It was the third year in a row we had played them. They had beaten us the previous two years so it was nice to get that one point win. That was a game that could have gone either way and we needed a full 60 minute performance so that was an important win for us.”
Griffin admits that his side learned valuable lessons from their defeat to Ennistymon in the group stages.
His charges had already qualified for the knockout stages when they met an Ennistymon outfit fighting to reach the quarter finals.
“We learned you have to be fully prepared and fully focused for every game. It was do or die for them while we were home and hosed.
“They blew us away that day with their physicality. They out-hurled us too which was disappointing because you never go out to lose a game.”
“We learned a lot from that game and we’ve improved after it with two good knockout wins to get us to where we are now.”
Crusheen produced a dominant display in the semi final against St. Joseph’s Doora/Barefield as they ran out convincing 4-14 to 0-10 winners.
The Crusheen manager believes his side will face a stiffer challenge in the final but is looking forward to meeting an Ogonnelloe side who will be determined to make the step up to the intermediate ranks.
“We’re looking forward to the game. It’s a bit unusual to be hurling at this time of year but we have to adapt to the conditions. This is their first team so we know they will be determined to beat us and make the step up to intermediate. They have hurlers who are talented enough to be playing at a high level. We’ve a lot of respect for Ogonnelloe and they are a club on the rise.”
“They gave us a big beating in the league which served as a wake up call. We had two options after that game; work and improve or else just throw in the towel. I’m glad the lads chose the former.
“We have to focus on our own performance as we have been good in patches but we need to be consistent. Hopefully if we can be then we will be there or there abouts.”
Ogonnelloe looking to refocus
Even the most die hard GAA fans will admit there are certain things in life more important than a game of hurling, writes Ivan Smyth.
With Ogonnelloe left reeling after the tragic passing of Gerard McMahon, hurling has not been at the forefront of their minds this past few weeks.
However, Ogonnelloe manager Alan Maher insists his charges are doing what they can to refocus minds ahead of a huge day for the club.
“We are doing our best. It has been a fairly hard time for the parish. The funeral was nearly two weeks ago so it’s still in the back of our minds.”
“We now have a bit of certainty with this final on November 14th so we can look forward to that. It (hurling) hasn’t been at the forefront of our thoughts recently but the excitement is starting to build.”
In a poignant moment during their semi final against Clooney-Quin, Gerard’s uncle John, who is a part of the management team, spoke to the players at the final water break with Ogonnelloe down by three points. The East Clare side struck for two late goals to seal their final berth.
“It was hugely emotional to see John there as we had just got the news of Gerard’s passing. It was a pivotal moment in that game and it is something that will always be remembered. There was an emotional release after that game so it was special.”
Ogonnelloe are hoping to secure their first Junior A crown in 33 years and have gone the full year unbeaten after winning the Division Three League. The club took the decision in 2016 to regrade from Intermediate to Junior A level with Maher now hoping his side can seal a step up in grade this Sunday.
“This final appearance is what we’ve been looking for since making the decision to move down. This is our first team so we want to be playing at a higher level to help players develop more. It is hugely encouraging for the club to be here so hopefully our hard work can lead to a win on Sunday.”
The Ogonnelloe manager is keen to build on the recent success of East Clare sides with Smith O’Brien’s crowned intermediate champions two weeks ago.
“We want to be competitive. We know we are a small club but if you look at Smith O’Brien’s now up at senior level, they are pushing on. Scariff are doing great too. They are up in senior while they won Junior B this year also. We see our neighbours progressing and we want to do our bit for East Clare too so hopefully we can go about doing that by coming out on top this Sunday.”