*Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
With a meaningless Clare Cup campaign behind all teams, it’s full steam ahead towards the championship with action brimming to life over the course of the weekend.
500 spectators will be allowed entry into all senior games this weekend to really kick off the race for the Canon Hamilton.
Whether or not Brian Lohan and his management will be among these spectators will prove intriguing as to their intentions for 2022.
Sixmilebridge go in search of their first ever three in a row, they will once again carry the favourites tag for glory while following closely behind are Ballyea who can call on a certain Tony Kelly to set the way.
Whoever can emerge from the vicious Group 1 containing O’Callaghans Mills, Clonlara, Whitegate, Kilmaley and Inagh/Kilnamona will certainly have strong credentials for a tilt at the championship.
Eyes will certainly be on the trio of Clonlara, Inagh/Kilnamona and Kilmaley as the added ingredient of momentum could be just what’s needed to see them really progress in the business end of the Clare SHC.
Neutrals will also be keen to see how Éire Óg progress in the group stages. In recent seasons, the Ennis club have been the closest to knocking Sixmilebridge off their perch and will be keen to finally pull the trigger this time round. They are paired in a group which also includes Feakle and they come bouncing in having claimed their first Clare Cup title in 33 years.
Fresh from winning the intermediate title and a solid league campaign, Scariff certainly have the ability to leave a mark in this year’s race but for them, their opening hurdle with Wolfe Tones will tell a lot.
With the smell of championship in the air, many injuries have miraculously cleared up, the new grips have been applied to the hurleys, the boots polished and the obligatory visit to the barber for the ‘championship cut’ has been completed.
Now that the goalposts have been sanitised, it’s time to see which club will be hitting the back of the net to begin the ascent to the top of the pile and get their hands on the Canon Hamilton.