*Ballyea captain, Tony Kelly. Photograph: Martin Connolly

Ballyea’s attempt to win back to retain the Canon Hamilton for the first time in their history kicks off this weekend with the start of the Clare senior hurling championship.

Should they complete such a feat, they would be the first team to do since the start of the decade following Crusheen’s 2010 and 2011 exploits. They face off with Clooney/Quin in what is the tie of the round on Saturday evening. Kevin Sheehan’s side secured promotion to Division 1A of the Clare Cup for 2020, with Tony Kelly, Jack Browne and Niall Deasy in their ranks they will be a handful for any outfit. Already with U14A and U15A championships in the bag, there is reason to expect Clooney/Quin to get their hands on the Canon Hamilton in the near future, for now 2019 is their focus and Sean Stack will have them primed to cause an upset in the opening round.

Spectators can purchase a €25 ticket from Clare GAA’s offices in Clareabbey between now and the weekend to secure entry to all weekend games across the county.

Wexford’s exit from the All-Ireland SHC means Davy Fitzgerald is fully devoted to helping the Sixmilebridge cause. Expect them to lay down a marker against Clarecastle who have the ability and experience once they put their minds to it.

Off the back of their first piece of senior silverware in fifteen years, anticipation is building in Kilmaley that it won’t be the only triumph for John Carmody’s men. Their demolition of Inagh/Kilnamona in Saturday’s Clare Cup Final has given supporters expectation of bigger things to come in 2019. They face Éire Óg in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final in what was an abysmal hour’s watch, several absentees from the Townies’ squad will see them struggle in the first round.

Shane O’Donnell will be leading Éire Óg’s attack. Photograph: John Mangan

Even though they will be without Ian Galvin, Clonlara have such strength in depth that they will be fancied to prevail against O’Callaghans Mills. The Fireballs showed their ability in 2018 reaching the last four and such a campaign can be mounted yet again, overcoming Clonlara in the first round would certainly see their expectations soar. Between 2012 and 2015, the sides met four times with the 2008 champions coming out on top each time. The Mills have a great chance but if Clonlara are to have a say this year, Saturday will indicate a lot.

Regardless of the result, Cratloe and Whitegate’s clash on Saturday will go down in the history books as it will witness the first score of the 2019 championship. This will be their fourth meeting in five years, the East Clare men are always a tricky assignment, recent history has informed Cratloe of this. With Mike Deegan involved in their setup, the 2014 winners are always going to be in contention, though they did not make the knockout stages of the league they went about their business nice and quietly. A team which contains Conor McGrath, Podge Collins, Cathal McInerney, Liam Markham, Diarmuid Ryan and Rian Considine is very exciting to watch, as such Cratloe should have a lot to say in the destination of the Canon. One can never write off Whitegate especially when Broadford is the venue.

A surge of confidence always accompanies the side straight up from intermediate and it will stand to Feakle when they meet Newmarket-on-Fergus who were relegated from Division 1A of the Clare Cup earlier this year.

Sunday’s only tie is not one for the faint hearted. Newmarket native James Carrig is in charge of Crusheen, he led Wolfe Tones to their 2015 intermediate success and must plot the downfall of his former side where he is accompanied by Johnny Markham and Brian Williams in his management, both of whom are members of the Shannon club. Crusheen may be better prepared for this one considering several of the Tones squad are returning from recent holidays though both sides should be aiming to make the quarter-finals.

Action also commences in the intermediate championship where eight games are down for decision. No major surprises are expected in this grade with the meeting of Smith O’Briens and Sixmilebridge possible of going either way.

FIXTURES (Extra time if necessary)


Saturday –
Cratloe v Whitegate in Glenmora Park, Broadford @ 14:00
Clonlara v O’Callaghans Mills in O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge @ 14:15
Kilmaley v Éire Óg in Clarecastle @ 14:45
Newmarket-on-Fergus v Feakle in O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge@ 15:45
Inagh/Kilnamona v Tulla in Shannon @ 17:00
Sixmilebridge v Clarecastle in Cusack Park @ 17:30
Ballyea v Clooney/Quin in Cusack Park@ 19:00

Sunday –
Crusheen v Wolfe Tones in Cusack Park@ 14:00


Saturday –
Parteen v Bodyke in Clarecastle @ 13:15

Sunday –
Corofin v Clarecastle in Ruan @ 12:00
Inagh/Kilnamona v Killanena in Crusheen @ 12:00
Scariff v Éire Óg in Dr Daly Park, Tulla@ 14:15
Smith O’Briens v SMB in Clonlara @ 14:15
Doora/Barefield v Cratloe in Dr Daly Park, Tulla@ 15:00
Tubber v NOF in Clarecastle @ 18:00

Monday –
Broadford v Ruan in Gurteen @ 13:00

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