*Susan Daly bursts out of defence. Photograph: Veronica McMahon
Familiarity certainly isn’t an issue according to Eoin Brennan as the McMahon Cup winners of the last decade Newmarket-on-Fergus (4), Inagh-Kilnamona (3), Kilmaley (2) and holders Scariff-Ogonnelloe contest Saturday’s Senior Camogie Championship Semi-Finals in Clare Headquarters.
Newmarket-on-Fergus v Scariff-Ogonnelloe @ Fr. McNamara Park Ennis, Saturday 1pm (Aaron Hogg, Clonlara) (Extra-Time if Necessary)
A third championship clash in 14 months provides the perfect backdrop for the latest wrestle for supremacy between Newmarket-on-Fergus and Scariff-Ogonnelloe. Of course, it’s a repeat of last October’s novel county final that pitted Newmarket-on-Fergus’ vast experience against Scariff-Ogonnelloe’s breakthrough expedience.
However, while it wasn’t as comprehensive as their 2-14 to 1-06 opening victory over the same opponents, final debutants Scariff-Ogonnelloe would still possess too much hunger, balance and firepower for the Blues to handle.
The rest is history as following three successive semi-final reverses, Scariff-Ogonnelloe’s first county senior crown seemed a release to subsequently garner provincial honours, the county’s first in 30 years, before their remarkable momentum-fuelled journey ended at the All-Ireland Semi-Final stage to three-in-a-row champions Slaughneil.
In contrast, it was a fourth successive final defeat for Newmarket, with an inevitable period of introspection once more throwing up further uncertainty as to the Blues’ status, having dominated matters previously with eight crowns amidst 14 final appearances since the turn of the Millenium.
That uneasiness could only have resurfaced when beaten by Kilkishen/Bodyke in Round 2 a few weeks back. But while it teed up an anxious final round, Newmarket’s character was back in abundance when needed most to overcome Kilmaley and top Group A on score difference.
A final group stage victory was also a prerequisite for Scariff-Ogonnelloe following a first championship defeat in almost two years against Inagh-Kilnamona. The champions did prevail against Truagh-Clonlara but the acid test of where they currently lie undoubtedly comes on Saturday.
With much the same personnel available on both sides, Scariff-Ogonnelloe will require a repeat of that ravenous final display to double the dose and really kickstart their first ever title defence as Newmarket unquestionably won’t require any additional motivation.
Inagh-Kilnamona v Kilmaley @ Fr. McNamara Park Ennis, Saturday 5pm (Kevin Walsh, Wolfe Tones) (Extra-Time if Necessary)
It’s like old times again as neighbours Inagh-Kilnamona and Kilmaley lock horns in the business end of the senior championship once more.
The emergence of Inagh-Kilnamona as a threat to then big guns Kilmaley and Newmarket was finally realised in the 2014 semi-final when Kilmaley were relieved to edge out their neighbours by 0-10 to 1-05 on their way to the title, their fourth in seven years.
12 months later, that warning sign wasn’t heeded as Inagh-Kilnamona oversaw a changing of the local guard with a 2-11 to 0-09 semi-final triumph over the holders. And it would prove a decisive day as contrasting development paths have seen the derby priorities diverge ever since.
Inagh-Kilnamona were beaten after extra-time in that year’s decider but subsequently garnered a three-in-a-row of senior crowns (2017, ’18 and ’19) while also contesting two Munster Finals. On the flip side however, that semi-final would be Kilmaley’s last until this season as relegation worries preoccupied much more of their time rather than winning back the McMahon Cup.
That period of transition appears to be finally coming to an end though as along with the experience of Claire McMahon and Niamh O’Dea, an exciting new crop of young talent have emerged to get Kilmaley on the right side of the championship divide with two wins in their three championship outings.
It will mean that Kilmaley can throw everything in their armoury at Inagh-Kilnamona on Saturday but in terms of snatching back the bragging rights, it may be a year or two too soon as a scorned Inagh-Kilnamona who themselves have an axe to grind following their premature semi-final exit last season.
Following three years at the helm, Inagh-Kilnamona looked decidedly war-weary and sorely out of sorts in 2019. But the hunger is definitely back and after exacting revenge on Scariff-Ogonnelloe at the group stages, they will be determined to get back to the winners’ enclosure again.