*Éire Óg’s Shane O’Donnell. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Lessons from 2019 have to be put into practice if Éire Óg are to progress as a unit.
Management: Matt Shannon (manager), Ronan Cooney (selector), Gerry O’Connor (selector). Backroom Team: John Williams, Ethan Nugent, Darragh O’Rourke, Niall Malone.
Captain: Liam Corry
Titles: 15 (includes honours won by Faughs & Ennis Dalcassians)
Most Recent: 1990
Key Player: Shane O’Donnell
Fresh Blood: Gavin Cooney
After taking the scalp of both Kilmaley and Newmarket-on-Fergus in last year’s championship, Éire Óg were on their way to a quarter-final victory over Sixmilebridge only to lose Aaron Fitzgerald to injury and subsequently concede three goals during a Bridge blitz. Fitzgerald is still “a few months off” away from a return to action but fellow Clare senior football panellist Ciarán Russell has returned to their defence.
This lapse in concentration is referred to by manager Matt Shannon as the biggest learning from his first year involved with the Ennis club. “You’re learning all the time, the further you get in the championship if you switch off against the top teams you will get punished, we saw that against Sixmilebridge last year in the ten or fifteen minutes when we conceded three goals, that was a big learning point to take from last year”.
He doesn’t view their positive run as adding extra self-belief to the squad. “I do think on any given day in the Clare championship that any team is capable of beating each other on a given day, I wouldn’t say it brought extra belief because there was belief there anyway. You have to be tuned in all the time, it’s not just Sixmilebridge, there are several other teams that would punish you when you get to the closing stages of the championship”.
Losing to eventual winners, Sixmilebridge not alone ended their involvement but also marked the fourth year in succession where Éire Óg exited at the quarter-final stage.
Every team has had a short window of preparation for the campaign but the Townies also have to contend with a sizeable chunk of dual players. “There is great honesty in the group, they have a great rapport among themselves, we’re hoping to build on the foundations laid last year, it is a short timeframe. From a dual point of view, we’ve very little time with the players but all you can do is focus on the basics and see where that takes us,” Shannon outlined.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge over the next few weeks. It’s about getting the players right from week to week in Éire Óg, we’ve football and hurling every second week, we want to have a cut off the two championships and see where it takes us”.
Conor O’Halloran and Mikey Moloney have returned from long-term injuries to add further options in the Éire Óg defence but they are without a key man in the guise of former Clare minor captain, Dara Walsh who is now working in the United States.
Off the field, the Corofin man has added former Clare joint manager, Gerry O’Connor to his management team. Matt said of the decision to bring in O’Connor, “I did know he was held in high regard by the group. After being involved at the top level for so long, Gerry in his own head was probably looking forward to an extended break and a few extra rounds of golf, from my point of view I would have questioned myself if there was a man of his experience in the club and I hadn’t approached him to get involved in the club, he brings a wealth of experience at the top level, he has been a great mentor to have so far. We have a small enough management but myself Ronan and Gerry are very happy with the group we have”.
They may have the self-belief within their squad and have proven their worth in taking down big names but for Éire Óg to really rank 2020 as a successful run, they need to get past the last eight and go from there.