Eoin Brennan looks ahead to the latest round of the Clare Cup with some tasty duels in store
Clare Cup Division 1A Round 5
Sixmilebridge v Cratloe at O’Garney Park Sixmilebridge, Friday 7pm (Rory McGann, Newmarket-on-Fergus)
While their last Garneyside derby clash saw Sixmilebridge do their best to prevent Cratloe from winning the Clare Cup last July, this time the shoe is on the other foot as it’s Sixmilebridge that possess the only chance of making a late push for the knock-out stages.
Ironically, a home victory would also send their neighbours deeper into relegation peril so it’s the perfect test for both and let’s not forget a repeat of the county final less than three years ago.
Ballyea v Crusheen at Ballyea, Saturday 1.30pm (Niall Malone, Éire Óg)
With honours even so far in Crusheen manager Kevin Sheehan’s duel with his native Ballyea in 2021, a new season inevitably brings renewed hope.
A ten point Clare Cup victory is invariably a false reality against a dual inter-county laden side such as Ballyea who exacted full revenge come the group stages of the championship when a powerful second period lowered Crusheen by 12 points. Regardless of the victor, it should be much closer this time around though.
Broadford v Inagh-Kilnamona at Glenomra Park Broadford, Saturday 4pm (Johnny Healy, Smith O’Brien’s)
It’s four years since Broadford and Inagh-Kilnamona clashed at senior level, one which the hosts won’t recall with any great fondness as they were humbled by over 20 points.
Prior to that, Broadford had more experience with Inagh-Kilnamona’s second string so the rarity of their meetings provides a layer of intrigue to Saturday’s reunion.
More significantly, it’s a relegation four pointer as the loser will be in real danger of being one of the two sides to go down to Division 1B.
Clonlara v Clooney-Quin at Clonlara, Saturday 4pm (Andy McMahon, Cratloe)
Both have had their periods of dominance in this almost annual fixture in recent years. Their most notable clash coming in the 2017 Senior Championship Semi-Final that saw Clooney-Quin advance to their first final in 74 years at the expense of a Clonlara side eager to reach their third consecutive final.
Clonlara have edged the last two battles though and with both under new managements this year, Clonlara’s more consistent form to date makes them favourites for a hat-trick.
Feakle v Kilmaley at Feakle, Saturday 7pm (Jarlath Donnellan, Wolfe Tones)
The stakes were high when Kilmaley hosted the corresponding fixture last July but the home side’s bid to halt Feakle from claiming a first Clare Cup in 33 years faltered early when reduced to 14.
This time, both are flying high at the summit of the Division 1A and being a clash of the last two champions, the result could have major ramifications as the winner will be assured of top spot whereas for the defeated side, it would be a severe dent to their hopes of early silverware.
Clare Cup Division 1B Round 5
Whitegate v Wolfe Tones at Whitegate, Friday 7pm (Ger Hoey, Killanena)
After a stuttering start, Whitegate and Wolfe Tones has begun to find their feet, with the home side recording back-to-back victories amidst a difficult period for the team and club, and the Tones finally getting off the mark against Scariff last time out.
As a result, a third successive Whitegate win would be a significant jolt but the visitors require the points just as much to steer clear of basement danger.
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield v O’Callaghan’s Mills at Gurteen, Friday 7.45pm (Joe Mullins, Clonlara)
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield’s latest Friday night lights billing is a juicy top-of-the-table showdown as the hosts test their flawless start against an equally high-flying Mills that have raided for four goals each in their last two outings.
Having already ended Éire Óg and Newmarket-on-Fergus’ perfect records, the Mills will be determined to cement a third win on the trot which makes for a worthy opening tie of the weekend.
Éire Óg v Smith O’Brien’s at Éire Óg, Saturday 1.30pm (Kevin Corry, Sixmilebridge)
With Éire Óg finished in the top four at senior level in 2021 while Smith O’Brien’s were crowned top of the pile in the intermediate grade, one wouldn’t expect the roles to be reversed in this year’s Clare Cup.
However, without their dual inter-county crew in this competition, Éire Óg don’t hold much fear for Smith O’Brien’s since recording a rousing win over the Ennis side in 2018.
Éire Óg could do with the points to stave off any basement threat and therefore it should be a relatively evenly-matched wrestle for supremacy.
Scariff v Clarecastle at Scariff, Saturday 3pm (Fearghal Gray, Feakle)
The stakes certainly aren’t as high as last summer’s championship clash that Scariff edged to effectively consolidate their senior status at their opponent’s expense.
The Magpies, despite a subsequent victory over Wolfe Tones, lost out on score difference to enter the ill-fated relegation series.
There’s no Mark Rodgers who hit a devastating 1-18 to sink the Magpies last September but it still should be close as the visitors look to maintain their confidence rebuilding process at the top of the table while newcomers Scariff have been struggling for points at the other end.
Newmarket-on-Fergus v Tulla at Fr. Murphy Memorial Park Newmarket-on-Fergus, Saturday 4pm (Jim Hickey, Cratloe)
Granted, it’s a senior versus intermediate tie but these sides have also had contrasting openings to the new season.
Tulla commenced with a morale-boosting win over Wolfe Tones in the first round but have since slumped to three consecutive reverses while it’s the complete opposite for the Blues who following three opening wins fell to a first defeat on home soil last Saturday.
That additional motivation to get back on track especially on home soil should dictate a Newmarket backlash.