Clare Senior Hurling Relegation Final: O’Callaghan’s Mills v Tulla
Eight teams will be consumed by thoughts of the Canon Hamilton trophy this weekend with four quarter-final ties down for decision, but in a strange way it is these two that will be thinking about the famous trophy the most. That is because this is their last chance to ensure they will be spoken about as one of the 16 candidates for the Canon in 2020 with the losers here dropping down to the intermediate ranks.
Whoever does make that drop down can have no complaints with three successive championship defeats for both sides to date. It is a worrying trend for both, but maybe even more so for O’Callaghan’s Mills. 2018 saw them lose out to eventual champions Ballyea by just four points in the county semi-final, and it should have been the catalyst for further progress. Exciting young talent like Colin Crehan, Gary Cooney and Jacob Loughnane are backed up by the experienced Conor Cooney, Paddy Donnellan and Gerry Cooney but it was not to be. Defeats to Clonlara, Newmarket and Whitegate now have them on the brink and they have one more chance to save their senior status.
It is equally worrying for Tulla who have never really got going in 2019. Their Clare Cup campaign saw them win just one of their nine games, and further losses to Inagh-Kilnamona, Wolfe Tones and Clarecastle sees them one more wrong result away from relegation. There is no doubt but that the loss to Wolfe Tones is the one they will look back on as the biggest opportunity lost. They had the aid of a strong wind in the second period but they were outfought in a three point defeat. The loss of Daragh Corry to injury this year has really hurt an already stretched squad and it will take something special to turn around their fortunes from here.
Game like these in the past have often been decided by the team who shows the most desire rather than the team that has the better hurlers. It will have been a difficult fortnight in both camps and the mental preparation for something like this is equally, and arguably more important than any game plans or tactics. Any lethargy is inexcusable at this point so the team that is tuned in and ready for the battle will hold the upper hand.
On paper, it would look as if the team that should have the greater experience to come through is O’Callaghan’s Mills. The Cooney and Donnellan brigades will surely have issued the rallying call in the last few weeks and the experience of that journey last year should be of some significance for them. Tulla will be looking to David McInerney to provide the leadership for them and their storied history will be invoked to get the adrenaline pumping.
It will be a game filled with nerves, mistakes and tension and is sure to draw a huge crowd which will only add to it. No one will run away with it, but the Mills should have enough to cling to safety.
Verdict: O’Callaghan’s Mills.