Kilmihil native Declan Downes knows Clare adult football inside out. A member of Colm Collins’ Clare management team for the past number of years, he is well versed on what patrons can expect for the 2022 county senior championship which gets underway on Saturday.
“Group 1 looks very competitive with the defending champions, the Cusack Cup champions, recent champions (St Joseph’s Miltown) and an exciting young team in Corofin. The first round games are very important, they will set the tone, will get momentum going, will give confidence and a win will take the pressure off ahead of the next two rounds,” Declan said.
Prediction: Champions Éire Óg to qualify along with St. Breckans on the back of their Cusack Cup success. Three teams qualify from this group and he feels that Miltown’s greater experience will see them edge Corofin, a team he expects to trouble the opposition if they take confidence from their recent league success.
“Group 2 looks to be a very interesting group and Cratloe will be seen as the team with the proven record here. They have won titles and been there or thereabouts regularly throughout the past decade. They are a very experienced bunch and they have introduced a couple of new players in recent times. Lissycasey have been in the knock out stages for the past few years. They have a fairly settled team but they will be disappointed with their performance in the semi-final last year.
“Doora/Barefield are a team with a lot of potential but they will be looking to one or two players to step up and make a mark this year. Kilmihil did well last year and Timmy Ryan has done a good job as coach. They might be missing one or two this week which could be decisive”.
Prediction: Cratloe and Lissycasey to qualify with Kilmihil to be in the play off for a quarter final spot.
“Looking at group 3 the bar has been set by Kilmurry Ibrickane year on year in terms of their ability to produce a team to compete for honours. They are serial winners, they have a serious management and coaching ticket and they are boosted by the return of experienced players this year.
“After a few lean years Doonbeg look to be on a comeback. They showed well in the Cusack Cup which they played without David Tubridy. This year the team management is from within their own club and that will bring pride and an understanding of the ethos of a parish. Ennistymon have a great bunch of talented young players who have yet to establish themselves at senior level. They could do with a win this weekend to kick start their challenge. They have huge potential. Clondegad will again be looking to the Brennans to lead their challenge but with so many of their players having hurling success with Ballyea its hard to maintain a push in both codes
Prediction: Kilmurry Ibrickane and Ennistyon to qualify
The third team in this group will play the third team from group 2 for the last quarter final spot and Declan won’t be surprised if this turns out to be a repeat of last year’s play off with Doonbeg facing Kilmihil.
Overall he feels that its hard to look past last year’s finalists, Éire Óg (winners) and Kilmurry Ibrickane for this year’s title.