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Clare Cup holders Feakle face championship holders Ballyea this afternoon. Photograph by John Kelly

Plenty of intriguing match-ups in latest Clare Cup action

Clare Cup Division 1A Round 6
Ballyea v Feakle at Ballyea, Saturday 1.30pm (Chris Maguire, Wolfe Tones)

A championship clash between the county champions and Clare Cup equivalents would be box office. A cup showdown in the height of inter-county season not so much although it’s still an interesting tie in terms of player development.

Feakle have the most recognisable team and therefore are expectedly still in the mix to retain their title but will require victory here to remain on the path for the top two spots.

Hosts Ballyea meanwhile have coped well so far, winning two and losing two more by a puck of the ball, with one more victory enough to consolidate their top flight status.

Cratloe v Clonlara at Páirc Uí hEithir Cratloe, Saturday 2pm (Jarlath Donnellan, Wolfe Tones)
Not the rivalry it once was at the beginning of the previous decade when both were vying for kingpin status.

A lot of water has flown under the bridge since and the main protagonists of the 2009 decider are dwindling by the passing season as currently both sides are rooted in the second tier of the championship pecking order.

Clonlara have assimilated a lot more young players into their flagship side and are therefore will be hoping to re-emerge out the other side of their frustrating period of transition that included a brush with relegation and back-to-back Senior B crowns.

That starts with a good Clare Cup run highlighted by three consecutive victories whereas Cratloe have the complete opposite record.

Kilmaley v Sixmilebridge at Kilmaley, Saturday 2pm (Jim Hickey, Cratloe)
If you’re a believer in omens, Kilmaley’s last senior clash with Sixmilebridge was in 2019 on their way to a first Clare Cup title in 18 years.

Colm Clancy’s side are back at the helm with the only unbeaten record in the entire 20 team Division 1 competition while Sixmilebridge, who also ended 2019 with even most coveted championship silverware, are also back in the mix for league honours.

Sean Stack’s ‘Bridge side crave a victory here to really ignite their challenge and ultimately drag back their hosts into the pack. Incidentally, the 2019 version finished in a share of the spoils.

Clooney-Quin v Broadford at Clooney, Saturday 4pm (Neil O’Brien, O’Callaghan’s Mills)
With their 2014 senior hurling relegation showdown being the last major meeting between Clooney-Quin and Broadford, it’s apt that the clubs find themselves in another basement scrap, this time to remain in the top tier of the Clare Cup this afternoon.

Home side Clooney-Quin haven’t won a tie since Peter Duggan’s outstanding 3-10 season opening haul against Cratloe two months ago and with Broadford warming up in the opposite direction to secure their first win last time out against Inagh-Kilnamona, there’s no guarantee that the hosts’ fortunes will alter here.

Inagh-Kilnamona v Crusheen at Kilnamona, Saturday 7.30pm (Johnny Healy, Smith O’Brien’s)
The only league tie that is a pre-cursor to a senior championship rematch later in the summer.

In a complete flip of last year’s championship finish that saw Inagh-Kilnamona finish second from top after contesting a first ever senior decider while Crusheen finished second from bottom, allegedly, it’s the blood and bandages who are currently vying for a place in the Clare Cup semi-finals.

Inagh-Kilnamona meanwhile are embroiled in a four way battle to avoid the drop from Division 1A.

The hosts clearly need to start picking up points fast so it should rule out any real shadow-boxing in what is already an intriguing tie as it takes place in a revamped Kilnamona.

Clare Cup Division 1B Round 6
Scariff v Smith O’Brien’s at Scariff, Saturday 4pm (Kieran Liddane, Sixmilebridge)

A timely clash of the last two intermediate winners and of course a rare Lough Derg-y derby.

That said, few from either side will forget their epic intermediate semi-final clash that went all the way to extra-time before a Mark Rodgers goal at one end was offset by a superb penalty save from goalkeeper Liam Doyle at the other to edge Scariff into the final.

Currently, the priority is to establish themselves as a senior force so neither will want to give an inch here as there will certainly be no fear factor.

O’Callaghan’s Mills v Whitegate at Hamilton Park Kilkishen, Saturday 6pm (Kieran Liddane, Sixmilebridge)
Another significant marker tie as both sides have been finding their feet well to find themselves in the race for promotion.

The elephant in the pitch however is last September’s decisive championship group clash in Sixmilebridge that saw an injury-time Paul Burke winning point secure Whitegate’s safety while effectively nudging the previous year’s county finalists into the dreaded relegation mire.

Such a dramatic backstory should make for a full blown rematch in Kilkishen this afternoon.

Éire Óg v Wolfe Tones at Éire Óg Ennis, Saturday 7.30pm (Ger Hoey, Killanena)
With Tulla slumping to a fifth straight defeat in midweek, there’s a real opportunity for Éire Óg or Wolfe Tones to ease their own demotion worries as this is a real four pointer in Ennis today.

A win for the hosts would go a long way to cementing their Clare Cup status but the question remains is there a kick in Wolfe Tones who aside from a recent draw with Scariff are still rooted to the bottom of the Division 1B table as they search for an elusive first victory of 2022.

St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield v Newmarket-on-Fergus at Gurteen, Saturday 7.30pm (Jim Hickey, Cratloe)
Two promotion rivals with one major commonality as they have only lost one match so far in 2022, with both recent sizeable losses coming at the hands of O’Callaghan’s Mills on their own home patches.

Those set-backs certainly left the home sides scratching their heads as to what exactly happened but of course that statistic has to change here as a win would be a major boost in the right direction.

St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield’s medium-term priority will be to take down the Blues’ second string in the intermediate championship so it will be interesting to see how they fare against the visitors’ flagship side.

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