Eoin Brennan previews this weekend’s senior football championship clashes
Éire Óg v St Joseph’s Miltown at St Michael’s Park Kilmihil, Sunday 12.30pm
Amazingly these heavyweights haven’t clashed in the senior championship since prior to St Joseph’s Miltown’s latest three crowns as one would have to rewind to the 2014 Quarter-Final, a match that the Townies shaded by three on their way to the final against Cratloe.
They weren’t successful that day against a Cratloe dual wave of momentum but they did finally make up for that last November when garnering a first Jack Daly in 15 years.
They have already secured a successful first defence with a gritty opening victory over St Breckan’s whereas St Joseph’s Miltown looked far from their superpower selves when ruffled by intermediate champions Corofin. The West Clare side’s overused treatment table doesn’t look to be any emptier so if the holders can improve from their cobweb-blowing first round display, they should be able to cement their return to the quarter-finals with a game to spare.
Verdict: Éire Óg
Corofin v St Breckan’s
at Hennessy Memorial Park Miltown Malbay, Saturday 6pm
With this being the Cusack Cup champions against their Garry Cup equivalents, it’s a rare but major opportunity for these neighbours to stake their claim for the title of ‘Kings of the North.’ St Breckan’s have the greater ‘Game of Thrones’ pedigree having taken residence in Winterfell since their 2019 Intermediate success where they have contested back-to-back senior semi-finals.
Corofin are the ones that currently possess the intermediate bounce, having also contested the Munster Club decider, and demonstrated their bid for the Iron Throne with the upset of the opening round when lowering 2018 and ’19 champions St Joseph’s Miltown.
With three to emerge from this pool, there isn’t as much immediate urgency in Group 1 but St Breckan’s need is greater after falling to the county champions, So while they will have to perform at their optimum, their added experience should count when required most.
Verdict: St Breckan’s
Cratloe v Kilmihil
at Cusack Park Ennis, Saturday 4.30pm
The Colm Collins derby has been a relative regular feature in the league but thankfully for Kilmihil, much rarer when it comes to championship fare. I say thankfully as 13 points separated the sides in their last encounter in 2018, with Cratloe still holding very different priorities to their West Clare opponents who despite reaching last year’s quarter-finals will be fundamentally focused on consolidating their senior status.
Not at full strength, Kilmihil were overly cautious against neighbours Lissycasey in the opening round a fortnight ago and therefore starved chief marksmen Martin O’Leary and Gavin Downes of supply.
It’s difficult to see them alter that for a Cratloe side that may not have hit top gear against Doora/Barefield but even without the services of Conor McGrath, possess a multitude of attacking threats that if ignited, could make this a long hour in the Park for Kilmihil.
Lissycasey v St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 1pm
They’ve already developed a keen rivalry at all underage grades which should transfer to more regular bouts at adult level. However, the major question is how much St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield have evolved in the intervening ten months since their 1-13 to 0-10 defeat to Lissycasey at the quarter-final stage of last year’s senior championship.
That day, Lissycasey held the whip hand and were never headed over the hour despite being fully reeled in on four occasions by the turn of the final quarter before an Enda Finnucane goal finally settled matters.
Lissycasey began the new campaign gingerly and only really flexed their derby muscles against Kilmihil in the second period as they assimilated fresh blood into their side. Doora/Barefield meanwhile gave themselves a mountain to climb by handing Cratloe two early goals in their opening bout before almost managing to climb Everest at the death.
They can’t afford to be as generous again but there are ultimately less questions surrounding Lissycasey.
Ennistymon v Kilmurry Ibrickane at Cusack Park Ennis, Saturday 6.30pm
Two sides that invariably attract a lot of pre-championship question marks, with Kilmurry Ibrickane being quizzed over their experienced core and their ability to keep excelling in the top tier whereas it’s the opposite for Ennistymon as all the pondering surrounds the prospect of turning underage gold into senior success.
The ‘Bricks have constantly answered those questions while Ennistymon remain an enigma, especially after their latest crop were all-too easily turned over by Clondegad last time out. Kilmurry Ibrickane meanwhile earned the local bargain rights against Doonbeg and having also prevailed in a surprisingly bloodless group tie against Ennistymon by 1-10 to 0-07 in Ennis in 2021, it’s difficult to look beyond a repeat showing unless the North Clare side can finally show their teeth.
Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane
Clondegad v Doonbeg
at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 3pm
Fortunately this is part of a double header as based on last year’s turgid clash watched best between your fingers, it was unlikely to attract too many supporters outside of diehards as a stand alone fixture. 0-5 to 0-3 at half-time in favour of the Magpies at the same venue, they eventually held off 13 man Clondegad by 0-9 to 0-6, seven of which inevitably came from the boot of David Tubridy.
With new managements on both sides of the divide, hopes spring eternal for an injection of quality and entertainment this time around, with Clondegad entering as slight favourites following their hugely encouraging opening win over Ennistymon.
Whether they have fully turned the corner will only be known on Sunday afternoon but if Clondegad fail to replicate their first round hunger, Doonbeg will surely take advantage once more as a backlash from their derby defeat to Kilmurry Ibrickane is simply a prerequisite.