*Ennistymon goalkeeper, Noel Sexton. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT is a tag thrown at the footballers of Ennistymon and it’s one they are eager to dispose of.
For the last seven campaigns they have reached the quarter-finals of the Clare SFC, coming up short on all but one occasion, the one year in which they overcame the hurdle saw them contest the county final where they would come up short against St Joseph’s Miltown in the 2018 decider (0-14 0-08).
Mark Shanahan returned to the role of Ennistymon manager in what is his third different stint, ironically he was the last man to guide them past the quarter-finals. Former Clare hurler, Colin Lynch worked as coach for Shanahan’s first spell a decade ago.
Dealing with the inconsistency has been a target from the beginning of their 2022 campaign. “There’s no doubt about it, we’ve been inconsistent. If there is one thing we’re after, it’s trying to get some consistency and see where it takes us, a consistency of performance, if you get that you’re giving yourself a better chance. We know it hasn’t been there and we’re trying to address it,” he told The Clare Echo.
With a single U21 title to their name in fifty years, a senior title still eludes Ennistymon, but underage success has been prevalent for the North Clare Magpies. The reasons for this inability to replicate the trick at adult level are not easily explained, Mark flagged, “I don’t think it’s as straight forward as people make it out. A lot of clubs in hurling and football find it difficult, there is a massive difference between underage and senior, there’s nothing in particular that I’d say is the reason we haven’t had success, a lot of small things but essentially we haven’t been good enough if you want to simplify it but it isn’t form lack of trying, we’re doing everything we can to try and make a difference from the underage to senior”.
Under the management of Noel Crowe last year, Ennistymon managed to emerge from a difficult group to make the knockout stages. Once again, they find themselves in a tight corner in Group 3 alongside Kilmurry Ibrickane, Doonbeg and Clondegad.
It all begins for them on Sunday afternoon in Cusack Park against Clondegad and starting with a win is very important, Mark stressed. “It goes without saying how important the first game is, all the groups are tough, it’s very important to win the first game because you are under pressure otherwise”.
That Clondegad avoided relegation last season is irrelevant this weekend, in the eyes of the Ennistymon manager. “We are not looking at the Clondegad from last year, we know the calibre of teams there so you have to win the first game, it’s giving a bit of momentum and if you lose you’re under a bit of pressure. We are not looking at what happened before, we are concentrating on ourselves and getting our own house in order”.
The trio of Dara Conneally, Sean Rouine and Sean O’Driscoll are outside that house this weekend with injury ruling them out. Conneally a former county minor is unlikely to feature for the group stages while Rouine and O’Driscoll who have both captained the senior side and lined out in the 2018 final are hoped to see some action in round two or three. “They are three senior players that have a good bit of experience, definitely they are a loss,” Shanahan said.
With the likes of Brendy Rouine, David Fitzgerald, Cillian Rouine, Cathal Malone and Eoin Rouine they have talent and physicality in abundance, of that there is no question, for them and their teammates shaking off the inconsistent tag is an objective that simply must be achieved.
Management: Mark Shanahan (manager), Ger Quinlan (coach), Brendan Rouine (selector), Brian Conway (selector), John McInerney (selector)
Captain: Adam Ralph
Key Player: Brendy Rouine
One to Watch: Sean Rynne
Fresh blood: Liam Cotter, Sean Rynne, Josh Guyler, Eanna Rouine, Brian McNamara, Darren McNamara, Josh Vaughan, Dara Rouine, Joey Rouine
Titles won: 0
Last season’s run: Survived the Group of Death alongside Kilmurry Ibrickane and St Joseph’s Miltown making the quarter-finals at the expense of Cooraclare and Cratloe. Exited at the last eight to the eventual champions, Éire Óg.
Rnd 1 vs Clondegad
Rnd 2 vs Kilmurry Ibrickane
Rnd 3 vs Doonbeg