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*Diarmuid Ryan will be hoping to replicate his county form with Cratloe in the club championship. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Tough challenges have not deterred Cratloe and it comes as no surprise that they are itching to get going in what is a very intriguing group.

Management: Conor Earley (manager), Aaron Carroll, John O’Gorman, Joe McGrath, Jody O’Connor and Oscar O’Dwyer (S&C)
Captain: Cathal McInerney;
Vice captain: Gearoid Ryan
Key Player: Diarmuid Ryan
One To Watch: Conor McGrath
Fresh Blood: Oisin Collins, Jack Donnelly
Departures Gate: None
SHC titles won: 2
Most Recent SHC title: 2014
Group Fixtures:
Round 1 v Crusheen (August 15th)
Round 2 v Broadford (September 4th/5th)
Round 3 v Ballyea (September 18th/19th)

Cratloe are really looking forward to competing in a really tough group according to their manager Conor Earley who is in his second season in charge of the South Clare outfit. Last year, they failed to make the quarter-finals having contested the county final in 2019.

The Tubber native who transferred to Cratloe some years ago is hoping that “playing in the Clare Cup this year will stand to us. We didn’t have that competition last year. It means that there are more games this year because of the league and the fact that the championship format changed. We will see soon proof as to how beneficial these additional games have been”, according to Conor.

Cratloe have been close to success in both the senior hurling and football championships in recent times but have come up short and many have argued that this is because they have a very high percentage of dual players.

Earley did not share this view. “I don’t see it as a difficulty. The majority of clubs have some footballers playing on their hurling team. I don’t see it as a problem within the one club. We are putting our best foot forward”.

Like many of the team managers in this competition, the former Clare intermediate hurler believes that “it’s all about the first game and getting the best out of the guys. Every game will be very tough. The main thing is get a performance out of the guys for the three games for 60 to 65 minutes. If that happens the result will look after itself”.

Team captain Cathal McInerney and Podge Collins are “working hard to get back to full fitness for this weekend’s opening tie. Neither played in the footballer’s opening round win over Cooraclare but both returned for last week’s draw with Miltown in round 2 of the football competition. They are two of the most experienced players in the squad and both played key roles in the two wins that Cratloe have recorded in the hurling and football senior championships in modern times.

Conor McGrath, Martin Oige Murphy, Michael Hawes, Gearoid Ryan, Sean Chaplin, Liam Markham and Sean Collins are very experienced players who will be joined by rising Clare star, Diarmuid Ryan, Rian Considine, Jack McInerney and Shane Neville for what promises to be an exciting first round clash with Crusheen.

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