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*Éire Óg’s David McNamara will be hoping the Ennis side get off to a winning start this weekend. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Fancied by many hurling followers as strong contenders for the Canon Hamilton, Éire Óg will commence their 2021 bid in Sixmilebridge when they meet Newmarket-on-Fergus.

Management: Matthew Shannon (manager); Ronan Cooney, Gerry O’Connor, Barry Nugent;
Captain: Liam Corry
Key Player: David Reidy
One To Watch: Jarlath Collins
Fresh Blood: Ciaran Hanna, Paul Moynihan
Departures Gate: Niall O’Connor
SHC titles won: 6 (titles have also been won by Faughs, Ennis, Ennis Dals and an Ennis/Clarecastle amalgamation
Most Recent SHC title:1990
Group Fixtures:
Round 1 v Newmarket-on-Fergus (August 14th)
Round 2 v Clooney/Quin (September 4th/5th)
Round 3 v Feakle (September 18th/19th)

Thirty one years without a Clare senior hurling title is a mighty long time for a club based in the county capital, Ennis.

A certain amount of progress was made last year when Éire Óg reached the semi-final in the race for the Canon Hamilton cup where they were a bit unlucky to lose out by the minimum margin to title holder Sixmilebridge.

As they put the finishing touches to preparations for this week’s opening round date with Newmarket-on-Fergus, there is uncertainty about the availability of Clare’s All-Ireland winning hero from 2013, Shane O’Donnell.

The talented forward hasn’t played since suffering a concussion some weeks ago while training with Clare. He has trained with the Ennis side but is unlikely to be risked at the weekend.

In addition there are concerns about the fitness of defender Aaron Fitzgerald who is reported to have suffered a leg injury in the closing stages of the town club’s first round football victory over Lissycasey last week. It will be near match time before a final decision is made as to the starting line up.

Corofin native Matthew Shannon is in his third year in charge of the town club’s senior hurlers. Former player with the club, Ronan Cooney has been part of the backroom team throughout Shannon’s time at the helm. Former Clare joint manager Gerry O’Connor joined the group last year and is again part of the management this season while former player Barry Nugent has come on board this year.

“We have ten to twelve dual players between both senior teams and staying free of injury will be key for both codes. It is difficult to manage with so many dual players. A single code team has a big advantage. Thankfully Paul (Madden, football manager) and myself have a good rapport and we make sure that those involved are not on the field every night”.

In this year’s league Éire Óg, like all other clubs were “short players and this provided a chance for all in the panel to get game time. It would have been frustrating for them if they did not get games. Most lads got full games and the league served a purpose”.

“There are a few niggles since the football last week and we wont be in a position to know who is available until nearer the match. Shane O’Donnell is working his way back to fitness and at this time I don’t know when he will be available. Aaron Fitzgerald suffered a muscle strain last weekend and we won’t know the full extent of it for a few days. They will of course, be big losses if they are out. We don’t have a big panel, we do rely on our big players. We have been in this position before and others have come in and stepped up”.

Matthew is another of the managers who is not looking past the first round. “We played Newmarket two years ago and we won by a score and we were put to the pin of our collar. They seem to be moving well, they have put up big scores. It’s going to be a serious test”.

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