Kilmurry Ibrickane v Lissycasey
at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 2pm
The trap of familiarity has snared many a favourite but for Kilmurry Ibrickane, such has been the complexity of their journey this year in terms of personnel, injuries and retirements that complacency certainly shouldn’t be an issue for the champions.
After all, being a fourth championship meeting in as many seasons, no other team outside of their nearest neighbours Miltown have caused the ‘Bricks as many headaches. In 2018, they had to scramble for two late goals just to force extra-time before completing a nine point turnaround to win by four, the following season Lissycasey’s profligacy in front of goal saw Kilmurry Ibrickane grind out a 0-9 to 0-7 win while last year’s semi-final showdown was a brilliant high scoring spectacle. Level on six occasions as late as the final water break, the fact that only the minimum separated the sides in the end was a testament to Lissycasey’s never-say-die challenge and of course, Kilmurry Ibrickane’s resilience and coolness under pressure.
It’s that winning knowhow that has guided them through the choppy waters of this year’s title defence that has seen them develop new players and bring back some familiar faces in an admirable mix and match conglomerate. Gone are former captains Michael Hogan and Keith King while injuries to key players such as Shane Hickey and Dermot Coughlan left them on the backfoot from the outset as they have successfully negotiated their way through the Group of Death and back to a sixth successive semi-final. It’s an achievement brought about by their crucial understanding, experience and structure in which every player knows his job and the collective is more important than the individual.
That said, Keelan Sexton’s scoring prowess has certainly been pivotal to their progress as the only team left standing from the Group of Death while the form of Aidan McCarthy, Ciaran Morrissey and Darragh Sexton have been other major factors in maintaining their unbeaten run that nows stands at nine matches since their county final replay reverse to Miltown in 2019.
Collective spirit has also been central to Lissycasey’s rebirth as a force in the county and with their underage trophy cabinet starting to bulge with increasing regularity, their plan to dine at the top table for a prolonged period would require the boost of a first senior crown since 2007.
The Finnucane brothers Enda and Conor, Aaron Griffin, Matt O’Shea, Seamus Collins, Ryan Griffin, Oisin Hanrahan and Brian Cahill have all been instrumental in achieving back-to-back semi-final appearances but getting over the line to a county final and equally finally breaking their Kilmurry Ibrickane hoodoo are crucial hurdles in their development.
Ironically while these sides meet at the penultimate stage for the second consecutive season, neither could claim to have reached the heights of last year when two streams of momentum clashed for what was a memorable 1-18 to 3-11 showdown.
Fingers will be crossed that they can bring the best out of each other once more but this year’s experiences rather indicate that this will be a more sobering, cagey affair based more on attrition than blind ambition.
If so, that would suit the more experience side and in that regard, the county champions could have the slightest of edges once more in their unquenchable quest to reach a fifth final in six seasons.
Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane
by Eoin Brennan