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*Éire Óg’s Liam Corry. Photograph: Raymond O’Mahony

Championship encounters require a killer instinct and it’s a mantra Éire Óg have to apply to their endeavours in the 2020 senior football championship.

Management: Paul Madden (manager), James Hanrahan (coach), Alan Malone (coach), Stephen McNamara (selector), Tom Russell (selector), Barry Ryan (goalkeeper coach)
Captain: Aaron Fitzgerald
Vice Captain: Conall Ó hÁiniféin
Titles: 18 (incl titles won as Ennis Dalcassians & Faughs)
Most Recent: 2006
Key Player: Ciarán Russell
Fresh Blood: Ciarán Russell, Darren O’Neill, Manus Doherty, Ronan Lanigan

When all is said and done, it truly is the big day that really matters. Éire Óg were the top team of the early stages of the 2019 championship recording impressive wins over Clondegad and Cratloe but an extra time defeat to Doonbeg saw them exit at the quarter-final stage.

Paul Madden is back for his fourth championship campaign in charge of the Ennis club and that extra time loss is still as fresh as ever in the mind. “We lost in extra time of the important one, we played quite well in the two group games, we were in a difficult group and came out top of the group. The real difference between the teams that win championships and those that don’t is when it counts, the winning team gets over the line, we had a number of chances against Doonbeg and we didn’t get over the line. You can do what you like but when it comes to knockout games, you have to see it out and if you don’t you will come a cropper”.

From last year’s side they are still without the injured Aaron Fitzgerald, full-back Conor Brennan is now based in Australia while ex Clare senior football panellist Eimhin Courtney is living in New York City along with midfielder Dara Walsh. Paddy O’Malley has also left the panel and has since transferred to a Limerick club.

They have been fortunate to welcome back two county panellists namely defender Ciarán Russell and Darren O’Neill whose last outing for the club was in fact their most recent county final appearance, the 2014 defeat to Cratloe.

Preparing for the first round “was always going to be a challenge,” Madden admitted. “We started our preparations in January the same as every other club hoping that the year would transpire to be a normal year and I suppose the lockdown has curtailed any collective training, lads were generally keeping themselves as fit as they could on a one on one basis. We only really started back after the 29th of June, the first couple of weeks were non-contact so all we were doing was fitness to bring lads back. When you start preparing for a championship on the 1st of July that is starting on the 1st of August, it is going to have its issues, particularly in a dual-club. Every team has a few injuries but it is par for the course with the championship this year the way it is”.

Clare wing-back Conall Ó hÁiniféin is among the injuries, a tendon issue has him listed as “seriously doubtful” while goalkeeper Nathan Murray’s involvement is also up in the air.

For the past three years in succession, the Townies have been eliminated at the quarter-final stage. Saturday’s tie with Kilrush Shamrocks sets them up for a possible return to the last eight. “Win your first game and you’re in a quarter-final so you can’t lose a game after that. That’s the format that has been adapted, eight weeks we weren’t playing at all so we have to be thankful that we even have a game. From our perspective we need to win on Saturday to give ourselves a chance and worry about the rest afterwards”.

Attention is firmly on Kilrush Shamrocks for the weekend from Éire Óg’s point of view and rightly so, anything less than a spot in the semi-finals for them this year would be a marked disappointment.

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