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*Jamie Malone’s return to fitness is a major boost to Corofin. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography

Saturday’s intermediate football championship final promises to be one of the most eagerly fought and evenly contested contests for the Talty Stores Cup in modern times.

That’s the view of a number of prominent mentors who have followed the progress of both finalists closely over the years.

St Josephs Miltown mentor and former Clare selector at minor, under 21 and senior levels, David O’Brien knows how difficult it is to win this particular championship. He led his native club to the title back in 2013 after they had been relegated the previous year.

David was a selector with Miltown this season and he saw Kildysart at first hand as they competed in the Cusack Cup. “They were very good in the Cusack Cup this year and they gained a lot of experience from playing in that competition. They will also have learned a lot from last year’s semi-final which they lost to Corofin. In that game they gave Jamie Malone a lot of space and he did a lot of damage to them. His return to fitness is a huge boost to Corofin”, the Miltown Malbay publican believed.

O’Brien believes that Corofin will “edge this one. I think the open spaces in Cusack Park will suit the Corofin forwards. In the conditions which are prevalent at the moment, goals will mean a lot and Corofin look like they can score them the players that have come through from minor level are a year older”.

“This will be a tight affair. Kildysart will need a big performance from Emmett McMahon while Diarmuid O’Donnell is also a very good forward. Freetakers will be very important particularly in the weather conditions we are experiencing at present,” the All-Ireland winning ladies football manager added. He believes that Corofin will be ahead when the final whistle sounds

Kilfenora’s J.J. O’Dea has watched both clubs compete at this level over the years and he also expects a close contest but feels that Corofin will capture the honours.

When Kilfenora last won this title in 2016 they defeated Kildysart in the final which required a replay. “We drew in Cusack Park before we won the replay in Miltown. My heart says Kildysart but Corofin are very good. They have a lot of young lads but you need experience in a final.

“There is a very good underage structure in Corofin at the moment they are playing at A level. It all comes down to on the day and to get over the line a team has to produce it on the day. I think that Corofin are that bit more evenly balanced”, according to O’Dea who is busy managing the Banner ladies senior team who are now just one step away from another Clare senior title.

In O’Dea’s view “to have got to the final stages of the championship without Jamie Malone and to have him now is great for Corofin. He is a quality player, I know him since he was ten years old and I have seen him develop into the player that he is. I was delighted to see him nominated for an All-Star award last year”.

According to the Kilfenora official “Kildysart seem to have the more experience while they have a lot of young lads as well. Emmett McMahon will cause problems for any opposition while Diarmuid O’Donnell is also a good player. Corofin manager Douglas Hurley will have his lads well tuned in. He has a good set up but when it comes to it you have to deliver on the day. I give a hesitant vote to Corofin to win and I won’t be surprised if it goes to extra time”.

O’Curry’s manager Dinny McMahon also believes that Corofin will win. “Look both have tasted defeat a lot at the concluding stage of the competition in recent years. I believe that Corofin are a more evenly balanced team and they have six very good forwards. They have a strong midfield and they are tight at the back They were beaten in the final last year but Kildysart have lost a few finals also and that is a big motivating factor. It’s a massive boost for Corofin to have Jamie Malone back fit. He is coming back at the right time and a fully fit Jamie Malone is a huge boost”.

McMahon believes that both teams “are well equipped to compete at senior level. The experience of having contested a number of finals will stand to Kildysart. They have been very close and maybe they could have won against St. Breckans a few years ago. They won’t fear Corofin but I believe that Corofin will shade what I expect to be a very tight game”.

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