Eoghan Moloney looks ahead to this weekend’s Clare Intermediate Hurling Championship action with semi-final places on offer and the relegation battle heats up.
Scariff v Inagh-Kilnamona
Form to date: Scariff beat Parteen 4-14 to 3-11 in round two and Éire Óg by 4-18 to 1-9 in round one.
Inagh-Kilnamona beat Cratloe by 3-10 to 0-10 in round three, lost 2-15 to 1-13 to Smith O’Brien’s in round two and beat Killanena by 1-12 to 0-13 in round one.
This is an intriguing tie, as both sides are coming off relatively comfortable victories in their last fixtures.
Scariff have registered impressive scores of 4-14 and 4-18 in their two games so far and look a major contender to be promoted. They have also conceded 4-20 to date, though, so will have to be wary of an Inagh-Kilnamona side that have shown an affinity for goals in their three games so far.
The Combo put three past Cratloe in their third round clash and also amassed 20 wides, despite winning by nine points, so it is evident that they are certainly not lacking in firepower.
Due to their monstrous scoring, the East Clare side will be the more fancied of the two sides. They have real danger men up front in the form of youngster Mark Rodgers, as well as Diarmuid Nash, among others.
Tom Barry is the focal point of the Combo’s attack but they also have a crafty youngster in the form of Cian Shannon, who bagged a goal versus Cratloe and will be a tough mind for any Scariff back.
Scariff, though, are right to be the more fancied side and it would be a minor shock should Inagh-Kilnamona claim victory, but minor shocks happen often.
Tubber v St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield
Form to date: Tubber had a 4-19 to 0-8 victory over Corofin in round two and a 4-17 to 0-6 win over Newmarket-on-Fergus in round one.
St Joseph’s had a 1-19 to 0-11 win over Bodyke in round three, a 0-17 to 1-13 loss to Broadford in round two and a 1-16 to 0-9 win over Cratloe in round one.
This marks the clash of the side relegated from the senior ranks in 2018 versus the beaten intermediate finalists of the last two years.
Tubber have put up cricket scores in their two games, winning by 23 points on both occasions.
They look to be front-runners so far but the Parish will be a more stern challenge in comparison to what they have met so far this year, having won the intermediate championship in 2016 before enjoying two seasons as a senior club.
Tubber look to have a stingy defence, led by Clare captain Patrick O’Connor, as they have given up only 14 points so far this season.
This doesn’t bode well for a St Joseph’s side that hasn’t put up massive scores in their three ties so far, breaking the 20-point mark just once.
Doora-Barefield are seasoned, though, from their time in the senior ranks and will undoubtedly push Tubber to the brink in what promises to be a cracking tie.
The slight preference is for Tubber but don’t expect the wide-margin wins of their first two encounters.
Smith O’Brien’s v Killanena
Form to date: Smith O’Brien’s won 2-15 to 1-13 over Inagh-Kilnamona in round two and had a 4-13 to 0-16 win over Sixmilebridge in round one. Killanena had a 0-17 to 0-14 win over Parteen, a 3-17 to 2-10 victory over Éire Óg in round two and lost 1-12 to 0-13 to Inagh-Kilnamona.
Smith O’Brien’s form heading into this tie is reading very well, as they have accounted for both Sixmilebridge and Inagh-Kilnamona, both of which also take their place among the quarter-final line-up.
Killanena, on the other hand, lost out to Inagh-Kilnamona, beat Éire Óg, who look destined for relegation, and pulled off a narrow and somewhat surprising victory over Parteen in round three. This will mark the first year in three that Killanena won’t contest an intermediate relegation final and they now find themselves at the other end of the pile. Survival was their number one aim and now that it has been achieved, they can hurl without any shackles.
The feeling is that Smith O’Brien’s will be a step ahead of their opponents and can push on towards the intermediate title and promotion to the senior ranks.
Verdict: Smith O’Brien’s
Broadford v Sixmilebridge
Form to date: Broadford beat St Joseph’s 0-17 to 1-13 in round two and beat Ruan 7-18 to 0-12 in round one. Sixmilebridge beat Corofin 3-17 to 2-16 in round three, beat Newmarket-on-Fergus 1-16 to 0-7 in round two and lost 4-13 to 0-16 to Smith O’Brien’s in round one.
Broadford will likely be favourites for this clash, having dismantled Ruan in round one before eeking out a narrow win over Doora-Barefield in a thrilling game in round two.
Sixmilebridge’s second side’s hopes are far from forlorn though and they can give the East Clare side a real battle. Brothers Agnew (Tiernan and Cathaoir) and Corry (Jack and Paul) are very capable hurlers, among many others, including the evergreen Niall Gilligan.
The ’Bridge were value for more than four in a sloppy game against Corofin and while they lost rather heavily in round one, they have stepped up game by game since. Broadford have a host of very strong hurlers and have the feel of a senior side in waiting. Whether 2019 is the year they make that jump remains to be seen. They should win this game but they won’t get it easy.
Clare Intermediate Hurling Relegation Final Preview: Éire Óg v Newmarket-on-Fergus
Form to date: Éire Óg lost 0-23 to 2-9 to Ruan in the relegation semi-final, lost 3-17 to 2-10 to Killanena in round two and also had a 4-18 to 1-9 loss to Scariff in round one.
Newmarket had a 0-13 to 0-10 loss to Clarecastle in the relegation semi-final, a 1-16 to 0-7 loss to Sixmilebridge in round two and a 4-17 to 0-6 loss to Tubber in round one.
Both Éire Óg and Newmarket-on-Fergus are arriving into this relegation final on the back of three losses on the bounce and this will be real desperation mode stuff to stay up.
Newmarket-on-Fergus will likely be favourites, due to the fact that they went close to beating Clarecastle, despite having 14 men for most of that relegation semi-final.
The Townies on the other hand have been on the wrong end of three wide-margin results and look to be a team that is seriously struggling for form. The only solace for the Townies with regard to this fixture is the fact that they have outscored Newmarket’s total in every game this season. Worryingly for the Blues’ second side, they have only managed a total of 23 points in three games and will need to improve upon this if they are to have any chance of remaining intermediate for the 2020 season.
Éire Óg have managed 5-28 in their three losses, so they will surely look to bolster their goal tally and, in doing so, keep their second side intermediate for another year.
Both sides are obviously low on confidence, so it’s hard to separate the two but slight preference is for Newmarket, should they be able to minimise the risk to their own net and keep 15 men on the field for the 60 minutes.