*Kilmaley’s Paraic McNamara. Photograph: Mark Hayes
One look at the line out of the Kilmaley senior hurling management team and it’s easy to understand why the club is short listed for honours in 2020.
Manager: Kieran O’Neill
Selectors: Niall Romer, Martin Cahill, Martin Enright, Dereck Williams,
Captain: Conor Cleary
Most recent: 2004
Key player: Conor Cleary
Fresh blood: James McGuire
Manager Kieran O’Neill was a key member of his native St. Josephs’ Doora-Barefield team when they won Clare, Munster and All-Ireland club honours. He coached Kilmaley when they last won the Canon Hamilton trophy back in 2004.
Niall Romer, the current Clare senior hurling kit man, has managed a number of Kilmaley teams to underage success. He captained Clare to the All-Ireland junior hurling title in 1993.
Donie Buckley may be better known as a football coach having been part of the Mayo and Kerry senior management squads in the past decade but all GAA people agree that his appointment to the Kilmaley backroom set up is a major coup for the club. An All-Ireland club football championship winner with his native Castleisland, Buckley has coached a number of Clare senior football club sides to honours
There is little doubt but that they have a very talented panel which is led by current inter county player Conor Cleary from Miltown Malbay. Mikey O’Neill, Michael O’Malley and Aidan McGuane have all had stints with Clare in recent seasons.
Daire Keane, Cian Moloney, Colin McGuane and Paraic McNamara are others who have been prominent in recent seasons. Having missed out on last season due to injury, Brian Cahill is back challenging for a place in the team.
“Playing Cratloe is a big challenge but it’s a great opportunity for Kilmaley. Cratloe have beaten Kilmaley in the championship in the last two years. They are a great side and we have no illusions about the enormity of the task we are facing. Cratloe are a fantastic team”, manager Kieran O’Neill said.
While the first round “might be like a challenge game”, Kilmaley will be chasing a victory. “When you win you have confidence going into the next round. Success breathes success. We know that we are facing an enormous challenge. We have a good bit of work done. We want lads to enjoy their hurling, we want them to play with a smile”, he said.
O’Neill replied that there was no pressure on the team given that they have been shortlisted for honours each year in recent seasons.
“We just want lads to go out and win win their patch. That’s the way we operate. If it doesn’t go for someone on a given day, we will make a change”, said O’Neill, a noted dual player in his playing days and a member of Clare’s Munster championship winning senior football team in 1992.
There is keen competition for places in the Kilmaley panel as the club, unlike many clubs in the county, does not suffer from a shortage of numbers. This is reflected in the fact that they have three adult teams in competition. Their underage section is strong and over the past decade they have been able to field two teams in most underage grades.
Just as they are at senior level, they are also amongst the favourites for the under 21 A title this year. In fact they are the holders of this title having scored a comfortable win over Crusheen-Tubber in the 2019 final.
For now the focus is very much on the senior championship and a win on Saturday would certainly strengthen the view held by many that they can win the title in 2020.