*Ennistymon’s Liam Cotter. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
ENNISTYMON built strong foundations with their journey to the county final last season but with the dawning of a new campaign they must now begin the process brick by brick of assembling their journey back there.
There’s plenty football first and Ennistymon find themselves in a sticky Group 4 alongside reigning intermediate champions Kildysart, two-time champions Cratloe and quarter-finalists for the past four seasons Lissycasey.
That all four teams will fancy their chances of making the quarter-finals is a view shared by Ennistymon manager, Mark Shanahan. “They are all tough groups across the board. Since the senior football championship has gone to twelve teams it has been really well contested, I totally agree that all four teams will fancy their chances of making the knockout stages”.
Kicking off with a tie against Kildysart in Corofin on Friday is certainly viewed as a tricky encounter by the Ennistymon management. “There’s always a bounce factor from the team coming up from the intermediate grade. Kildysart have given us two games in the Cusack Cup over the last two years and they have beaten us comprehensively on both occasions, that is the bottom line, we know all about them in that regard so they are definitely a team on the up”.
No better statement could be made by Kildysart themselves in the senior race by upsetting Ennistymon in the first round. The North Clare side will be without the injured trio of Cillian Rouine, Darragh Conneally and Diarmuid Ryan, “they definitely won’t be featuring,” Shanahan confirmed while Brendy Rouine is also unlikely to make his first senior appearance for Ennistymon this year and midfielder Cathal Malone is out of the country for the opening round.
Such losses can shake a team but those who saw Ennistymon up close last year will have witnessed how they brought resilience to the fore on countless occasions, indeed it was one of the standout traits that led them all the way to the county final as injuries were a constant thorn in their side in 2022 also.
Reflecting on their run last year, Mark recounted, “We were genuinely gutted to lose the final but when the dust settled and we saw where we came from we were happy, there was big foundations put in place that we can build on from last year”.
Looking ahead, he is determined that they continue to drive forward. “This isn’t to sound clichéd but our target has never changed from last year, the approach we take is to maximise every single minute of every training session and bring it into every match we play. We are fierce lucky as a management because the boys love to train, we want to ensure the lads enjoy what we’re doing, we place a big emphasis on that. We never look beyond the next training session or what we are doing but we want to improve all the time”.
External expectations are for Ennistymon to be among the last four teams standing in the race for the Jack Daly. Within the set-up, the appetite to forge a long campaign is as strong as ever according to Shanahan who is in the second year of a third stint in charge of the North Clare Magpies. “I think the pressure is within the group, if we’re standing still we’re not making progress, outside there’s no pressure but if there is a bit it’s our ambition to always move forward”.
Aiding that ambition to progress is the lift provided by winning the Cusack Cup title, an impressive turnaround seeing as they were at risk of relegation from the top tier of the league entering the third last round of games. “In relation to getting silverware and from panel to pick from, it was a fair achievement, I wouldn’t say it has little or no relevance to the championship, I’m not trying to be clever but I genuinely don’t think it has, it was good for us and good for confidence”.
He continued, “we’re lucky that we built a panel, it’s one thing that has become a thing for us, sometimes you say something and words are only words but we only concentrate on who we have, we had to deal with things last year but we never get bogged down on who is available, we’re not going to be a team who does that”.
Winning the Cusack Cup gave only the smallest of samples as to what senior success tasted like for Ennistymon, it could be the first such occasion this year but they must demonstrate their resilience, hunger and attacking ability in spades in order to add to the trophy cabinet.
Management: Mark Shanahan (manager), Ger Quinlan (coach/selector), Brendan Rouine (selector), John McInerney (selector), Brian Conway (selector)
Captain: Cillian Rouine
Key Player: Cillian Rouine
One to Watch: Brian McNamara
Fresh blood: Paudie Considine, Liam Devitt, Ciaran Devitt, Mark Kelleher, Sean Conneally, James Cullinan.
Departures Gate: Kevin Hehir (injury/travel), Cathal O’Reilly (transfer).
Titles won: None
Last season’s run: Beaten county finalists
Round 1 vs Kildysart in Corofin on August 4th at 7pm
Round 2 vs Lissycasey on August 18th/19th/20th
Round 3 vs Cratloe on September 1st/2nd/3rd