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Doonbeg’s David Tubridy in action against Lissycasey's Martin O’Connor and Cian Meaney. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

Time for moral victories over as race for Jack Daly heats up

Senior Football Championship Round 3

Group 2
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield v
Kilrush Shamrocks
at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 4pm

Bouncing back from deflating opening performances, both Doora/Barefield and Kilrush unquestionably exceeded expectations last time out albeit with contrasting results.
The Parish brushed off an underwhelming eight point reverse to St Breckan’s to take their frustrations out on Kilmihil by a whopping 16 points and that will have provided a huge jolt of confidence to their young squad in what is the club’s first year back at senior level since 2018.
Equally, there was much to like about Kilrush’s spirit and application to certainly make life extremely uncomfortable for a St Breckan’s side that was expected to steamroll the Shams. However, the time for moral victories and valiant performances in defeat are over as with two teams getting the chop this year from senior level, this group more than most knows the heartache of having to rebuild in the second tier,
While they will also have to keep an ear out for what’s happening in Miltown, the bottom line is that a Doora/Barefield victory of any kind should be sufficient to see them take a quarter-final spot but a defeat allied to a Kilmihil victory over St Breckan’s would put the Parish in the relegation zone.
For Kilrush, a quarter-final play-off by finishing third is the best that they can hope for but their focus will be on survival by any means necessary. And they shouldn’t require any additional motivation as this is the first championship meeting between these sides since Doora/Barefield relegated the Shams for the first time in their storied history in 2016.
While the spirit is strong, they just may not have enough firepower to match a buoyant Doora/Barefield side who raided for five goals a fortnight ago.
Verdict: St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield

St Breckan’s v Kilmihil
at Hennessy Memorial Park
Miltown Malbay,
Sunday 4pm

These sides only tend to meet for timely wake-up calls as three years on from a relegation semi-final, St Breckan’s and Kilmihil both have points to prove after sobering performances in the previous round.
Kilmihil won that nervy 2018 demotion play-off by 2-11 to 0-11 in Ennistymon but it would prove a detrimental blow for St Breckan’s as they spiralled down to intermediate where they regrouped and re-armed to inspirational effect.
That pattern was borne out again on day one but following a solid first win over Kilrush, Kilmihil’s 16 point pummelling at the hands of St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield is difficult to comprehend or defend.
St Breckan’s meanwhile still hold a perfect record after two matches but were ruffled by Kilrush which ensured that it was their most lethargic hour since bounding back to senior level.
Not firing on all cylinders and still grinding out victory is not a bad habit to have though and they will be favourites to cement top spot in Group 2 with a third successive victory.
Kilmihil on the other hand can’t afford to leave anything to chance or depend on the result of the other tie as every score could matter in the race to avoid falling into the dreaded relegation group.
A win or draw would be enough to stave off finishing bottom for Kilmihil but while a sharing of the spoils would also suffice for St Breckan’s to achieve that goal of avoiding the other group winners, the truth is that Lisoonvarna/Doolin based side wouldn’t know how to play for a draw such is their invariable swashbuckling style.
Restoring that youthful enthusiasm and collective drive will be priority number one for Donie Garrihy’s men, a backlash that could be beyond Kilmihil’s capabilities.

Verdict: St Breckan’s

Group 3
Lissycasey v Clondegad
at Cusack Park Ennis,
Saturday 1pm

It couldn’t be any tighter in Group 3 as any side could top it or finish bottom in what promises to be an anxious final hour in Ennis and Kilmihil on Saturday afternoon. All four teams currently have two points under their belts with even the scoring difference between Clondegad, Doonbeg and Lissycasey being only two points.
What we do know is that it’s essentially winner-takes-all for the two guaranteed quarter-final spots, the perfect backdrop for an all-too rare derby clash between Lissycasey and Clondegad.
If their last championship meeting is anything to go by, it will go right down to the wire as in 2017, it had to take two matches and extra-time on the second occasion to finally separate them as Clondegad eventually edged matters by 1-10 to 1-07, a timely lift on their way to a first county final.
That proved to be their peak however as incremental slippage has seen Clondegad drift from the Jack Daly reckoning to nearer the danger zone, a fate that certainly seemed a possibility following a turgid opening defeat to Doonbeg.
Remarkably however, they responded with the shock of the championship so far to edge out a high-flying Éire Óg by the minimum last time out, a first championship victory since 2018 that will make them feel that a quarter-final place is again tangible.
The same goes for Lissycasey though who were blown away by the Townies, only to get back to winning ways against Doonbeg, a significant result that backs up the progress of the last 12 months in reaching the county senior semi-finals and also adding a Garry Cup crown ahead of this campaign.
One could make a legitimate argument either way but just to avoid impalement on the fence, perhaps Lissycasey possess the slightly greater collective threat.

Verdict: Lissycasey

Éire Óg v Doonbeg
at Kilmihil, Saturday

While both sides will have great memories of previous clashes between this familiar club pairing, most notably the back-to-back county finals at the turn of the new millennium that were shared evenly, tradition goes out the window this Saturday for their latest duel.
Indeed, the battle has already begun as psychologically the Magpies will feel that they already have a slight edge when this tie was fixed for Kilmihil and not in Cusack Park. All because their last championship clash in the quarter-final of 2019, incidentally held in Miltown, saw Doonbeg completely defy the odds to prevail after extra-time in a most spectacularly enthralling extra-time encounter.
After all, Éire Óg, having emerged from a ‘Group of Death’ with Cratloe and Clondegad with flying colours, were red hot favourites to reach a first semi-final since 2014 as incredulously the Magpies hadn’t even won a match to get to the last eight.
The stand in Hennessy Memorial Park was rocking though when Doonbeg somehow kept bouncing back off the ropes to first force extra-time before a brace of last gasp goals through Enda Doyle and Colm Dillon nudged their side ahead for the very first and most significantly last time.
Both stalwarts for club and county are gone from the Doonbeg panel now but have been replaced by a new crop of talent that have certainly stood up to the challenge so far.
However, while Doonbeg’s battling qualities are expected and invariably delivered, the question remains as to which Éire Óg will turn up in St Michael’s Park on Saturday. Will it be the devastating title-chasing challengers to Kilmurry Ibrickane that ripped apart Lissycasey in Round 1 or the calamitous collective that repeatedly shot themselves in the foot to fall to Clondegad?
Supporters have seen both Jekyll and Hyde too often in recent years but the Doctor is certainly required if the Townies are to emerge unscathed.

Verdict: Éire Óg

Senior Championship
Round 4

Group 1
Kilmurry Ibrickane v
at Shanahan McNamara Park
Doonbeg, Sunday 12pm

It’s five years since Kilmurry Ibrickane and Cooraclare last clashed in the championship, a semi-final triumph for the ‘Bricks that kickstarted their recent dominance once more with titles in 2016, ’17, and ’20.
Ironically, it’s probably a fixture that comes too soon for Cooraclare, who after falling to Cratloe and more disappointingly to Ennistymon, wouldn’t have wanted to try and pick up the pieces against the county champions who in contrast are unbeaten in their title defence so far.
Add in the fact that it’s Kilmurry Ibrickane’s last group outing and they will be determined to top the Group of Death in style as it will be their last competitive outing for a month, with a bye to come in the final round of this group at the end of September.
In truth, aside from a typical attritional derby with Miltown in Round 1, no other team has come close to replicating the levels of intensity and guile that the ‘Bricks have displayed, certainly not Cooraclare who despite encouraging patches against both Cratloe and Ennistymon, never seized control of either tie at any stage. mOf course, there’s also the Aiden Moloney connection as the Kilmurry Ibrickane championship winner as player and manager secured Cooraclare’s last of 13 Cusack Cup crowns in 2009 at the expense of his native club by just the minimum.
However, his full attention this days is focused on keeping the ‘Bricks at the helm of Clare football, something which can be greatly aided by victory at high noon on Sunday.

Verdict: Kilmurry Ibrickane

Ennistymon v St Joseph’s
at Cusack Park, Sunday

It’s back to the scene of the crime for Ennistymon on Sunday in a last gasp bid to break up the cosy cartel at the top of Group 1. A repeat of the 2018 county final that overpromised for a momentum-fuelled Ennistymon but ultimately underdelivered, revenge on Sunday would put them in the ascendency for a quarter-final position.
Level on two points apiece after two outings, it’s worth noting that Miltown are still unbeaten, having shared the spoils with both Kilmurry Ibrickane and Cratloe. Unfortunate to let slip a lead in injury-time against the champions, the shoe was on the other foot when having to scramble for a draw against last years finalists.
It has been four weeks since that Cratloe outing but the break was certainly needed as Michael Neylon’s side appeared to come off worst from those huge opening ties in terms of a mounting treatment table.
Having failed to spark against Kilmurry Ibrickane, Ennistymon have since got off the mark themselves two weeks ago when supersub Ross O’Doherty’s injury-time brace of goals put a flattering complexion on the final scoreline against Cooraclare.
A vast improvement is required if the North Clare side are to replicate that feat on Sunday as a re-energised Miltown will be eager to secure their last eight place alongside neighbours Kilmurry Ibrickane and avoid any nervy final round antics.
Depending on the availability of key personnel, the 2018 and ’19 champions should have enough experience and balance to maintain their hold over Ennistymon, even allowing for the inevitable revenge factor.

Verdict: St Joseph’s Miltown

Four teams are already guaranteed places in the Intermediate Football Championship Quarter-Finals ahead of this weekend’s final round of matches.
Kildysart and Kilfenora face each other to decide who tops Group 1, Corofin’s vastly superior score difference puts them ahead of the pack in Group 2 regardless of their final round clash with Wolfe Tones while O’Curry’s are already qualified from Group 3 but will require a win over Éire Óg’s second string to confirm top spot.
With the best pair of third placed sides also advancing to the knock-out stages, essentially all 12 sides are still in the mix, with perhaps the tie of the round being in Lissycasey on Sunday when last year’s semi-finalists Shannon Gaels face-off with newcomers Banner for at least a runners-up place in Group 3.
In the Junior A Championship, first teams St Senan’s Kilkee and Ballyvaughan are safely through to the quarter-finals with a game to spare as are Clondegad and Ennistymon’s second teams while St Joseph’s Miltown can clinch Group 4 with a win over Lissycasey.
Finally, the Junior B Championship is down to the last four with St Breckan’s, only 12 months on from winning the title with their second team, are back in contention with their newly formed third string in a clash with flagship side and favourites Parteen while it promises to be an even closer inch-tight affair between Kildysart and Kilrush in Labsheeda on Sunday.

by Eoin Brennan

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