Clare SHC Quarter-Final Preview
Eire Óg v Feakle
The last available spot in this year’s Clare senior hurling championship semi-finals is the prize on offer this weekend when these two square off in Cusack Park.
Both sides carry winning momentum into the game, but the time between Sunday’s showdown and when those victories came is the big difference.
Eire Óg were impressive in seeing off last year’s beaten finalists Cratloe a fortnight ago where a powerful closing quarter saw them pull away for a merited six point win.
Feakle were equally impressive by the manner in which they saw off the challenge of Clarecastle where Shane McGrath’s 4-10 haul was the highlight of a 5-20 to 2-12 victory. That win came four weeks ago, so managing the gap between games will have been a challenge for the Mike Guilfoyle led outfit.
That dynamic will be a factor in the game, and it remains to be seen who it will fall in favour of. The East Clare men were nursing a few knocks so that extra time to recover may well be viewed as welcome, but the Townies will hold the upper hand in terms of match sharpness having had that more recent game.
It is difficult to read too much into the manner of Feakle’s win over Clarecastle with the game a non contest after the opening quarter as the 2018 intermediate champions carried a 12 point lead into the opening water break after a blistering start to the game.
Speaking after their win over Cratloe last weekend, Eire Óg manager Mattie Shannon was quick to point out that he felt Feakle would present a much different challenge than Cratloe did. Feakle are comfortable in mixing the physical elements with the sublime and base a lot of what they do on exploiting the power of the likes of Oisín Donnellan, Eoin Tuohy, Gary Guilfoyle and Martin Daly. McGrath adds that touch of class around the middle third so Eire Óg will be braced for another tough afternoon.
Eire Óg’s scoring power stood out two weeks ago, none moreso than Danny Russell’s personal tally of 1-11. The conundrum of where best to deploy Shane O’Donnell seems to have been solved as the county star had a major impact on the game when moved to the full-forward line. That would seem to be the area in which Eire Óg might get the most joy, with an inside line of Russell, O’Donnell and David Reidy being a frightening prospect for defences to watch.
The battle between Ciaran Russell and Martin Daly on the edge of the other square is going to be a key match up with Russell impressively solid in his performances to date. Daly is often the outlet when Feakle need to go long so disrupting possession to the target man will be the task at hand. Similarly, it remains to be seen if Reidy is deployed to keep tabs on McGrath while Feakle will have to figure out a way of curbing the influence of Liam Corry in the Eire Óg half-back line.
It has the potential to be a fiery affair and with marksmen of the quality of Russell and McGrath, whichever team can keep the free count down will be that half-step ahead. Momentum can often be a defining factor, and with the more recent game under their belts and no football distractions this week, Eire Óg might just shade another cracking contest.
Verdict: Eire Óg
Clare IHC Quarter-Final Preview
Corofin v Smith O’Brien’s
Match sharpness is likely to play a key role in this tie, with the North Clare men coming into it having had games in both codes in recent weeks.
The Killaloe men have been without championship action since a six point win over Ruan on August 9, so almost a month will have passed by the time they take to the field in Sixmilebridge for this tie on Sunday.
It was always going to be a big ask to take down a strong and balanced Corofin outfit who have two of the most exciting young talents in the county in the form of the Cahill brothers Gearoid and Diarmuid.
That threat allied to the likes of Jamie Malone, Eoin Clancy and Damien O’Loughlin gives Corofin a strong base to work from and they will rightly carry the favourites tag here.
Tommy Reddan has been the main man for Smith O’Brien’s in the championship to date and they were unlucky not to take the scalp of St Joseph’s in the opening round. The Stritch duo of Cathal and Keith along with Cian Nolan and Mick Gough will be key figures, but Reddan will need much more support up front if they are to extend their 2020 championship season.
On the face of it, Corofin would look to have much more by way of a scoring threat and should have enough to come through here to set up a last four showdown with Scariff.