For the first time, Sixmilebridge and Cratloe will meet in the final of the Clare SHC at 3:15pm today, The Clare Echo sought the opinions of five well-known figures to assess how the game will go.
David Fitzgerald (Inagh/Kilnamona and Clare defender, NHL winner) – This should be a very entertaining final. Whatever six backs and two midfielders that can eliminate the space for opposition forwards will be victorious in my opinion. There are a number of match ups on both sides that must be got right also, the planning into these areas will be crucial. The result could go either way but if Cratloe can get enough quality ball into their inside line, they should prevail.
Leo Doyle (Bodyke, ex Clare goalkeeper, commentator with Scariff Bay FM & Clare GAA TV) – It will be very close to call as most derbies usually are. Sixmilebridge are notoriously hard to beat and have plenty of experience of winning. Mentally, they have had also had an extra week’s preparation whereas the combination of football and hurling has to take its toll on Cratloe. On Sunday, Cratloe won’t have the luxury of space that was afforded to them in the semi-final instead Sixmilebridge will crowd out midfield and their defence. Sixmilebridge have to improve on their semi-final display and I think they will. It will be a very close game but I think it will be title number fpurteen for The Bridge by the minimum.
James Carrig (Crusheen senior hurling manager & Munster club intermediate winning boss of Wolfe Tones) – An interesting final ahead, a local derby, two very good teams with two very different styles of play, it has the makings of a great match. I have been really impressed with Sixmilebridge’s fitness, super workrate and game management all over the field this year but after seeing Cratloe first hand in the semi-final, they were ruthless and clinical putting the game to bed in a fifteen minute period in the second half, I believe they will get over the line on Sunday by the slightest of margins. I think the hurt of losing the County Final last year, the scoring threat they have up front and in my opinion the best player in the Clare championship this year is Conor McGrath who is on a mission to lead Cratloe to victory this year. They have impressed in the second halves of matches against Kilmaley, Clonlara and Crusheen but they will need to improve on their first half performance and not give a lead to the best defensive team in the championship in Sixmilebridge for them to hold on. I’m hoping for a great county final, best of luck to both teams and managements on the day but I just think Cratloe in a very hard fought tight affair.
Bryan O’Loughlin (Kilmaley goalkeeper, 2019 Clare Cup medallist) – Now that I’m working in Cork, I have a lot of keen GAA supporters working with me always looking for top tips in the Clare club games, hurling and football but I’ll be telling them to avoid this one. Two teams with nothing between them and by far the standout teams of this year’s championship. I wonder, as will many will the long football run cause an element of fatigue for the Cratloe men. That’ll be the difference for me. Nothing more than a score in it, depending on how the Cratloe bodies are after the defeat to Kilmurry Ibrickane.
David Reidy (Éire Óg senior hurler, 2016 NHL winner with Clare) – Both teams have a similar style of play with the full forward close to goal with the other two members of the inside line playing forty yards from goal and everyone else pulling out into the middle third creating a massive battleground. The winner of this battleground will win the game! Two key players for Cratloe will help them win this area, Podge Collins and Conor McGrath. The key battle will be Evan McInerney man marking Conor McGrath, Evan has picked up Tony Kelly, myself and Jason McCarthy and probably won all three individual battles. The form Conor has shown this year in both codes, I think he will win the battle and be another launchpad for Cratloe’s attacks. Cratloe will be hurting a lot from their failures in the football and will turn this hurt into motivation. Sixmilebridge got out of jail in the quarter-final but even more so against the Inagh/Kilnamona in the semi-final and I think their luck has run out.