*Conor Cleary in Cusack Cup action. Photograph: Martin Connolly
St Josephs Miltown begin the defence of the Jack Daly this weekend as the Clare senior football and intermediate championships commence.
Revamped formats of the football championships will hopefully lead to improvements in the quality and excitement that have been lacking in recent years. Though this weekend is not win at all costs, it is certainly worth putting two points on the board early and hitting the ground running.
Thirteen teams split into four groups have been eagerly awaiting the throw-in of the senior championship. St Josephs Miltown are joined in Group One by Kilmihil, Kilrush Shamrocks and the newly formed Naomh Eoin/O’Currys, all four will be in action over the weekend.
Already with the Cusack Cup in the bag, David O’Brien’s Miltown will be keen to add further silverware in 2019. They face off with Kilmihil in a repeat of the 2013 Intermediate decider and they should have far too much for last year’s Senior B finalists.
Up from the intermediate ranks following their first ever relegation in 2016, Kilrush Shamrocks are more than capable of emerging from this group. However if they fail to win at the weekend, doing just that will be very unlikely. Naomh Eoin/O’Curry’s have put their storied past to one side to join forces and will be a team to beat, this being their secondary focus with intermediate matters also in the spotlight will impact their cause though they definitely will be looking to cause an upset.
Kilmurry Ibrickane will be expected to advance from Group Two where they will compete against Lissycasey on Saturday with Corofin getting a bye in the first round. With Horse Moloney back for his third stint as Bricks manager, they mean business and won’t be lacking in motivation given the success of their Miltown Malbay neighbours. They will have no Keelan Sexton for the first round but several youngsters are putting their hand up for a jersey plus they’ve Dermot Coughlan back to full fitness, not to mention the vast experience in their dressing room. While KIB have been the standard setters, Lissycasey have not. They surprised not alone the county but also themselves in defeating Éire Óg in last year’s first round. Given underage success in the past decade, Lissycasey have the footballers but only they can decide how far they progress in 2019.
David Russell is in charge of Cooraclare this year and they have the weekend off from competitive games as the only Group Three clash sees Doonbeg and Ennistymon square off in the county grounds. It’s the clash of the two Clare footballing Magpies, both of whom are flying in opposite directions, Ennistymon on the rise with Doonbeg struggling to add new talent and now six years since their appearance in the county final. While they may lack youngsters, Doonbeg can call on the likes of David Tubridy, Paraic Aherne plus the Dillons.
In Group Four, very little will separate Cratloe and Clondegad on Sunday in Cusack Park where Éire Óg will duly be taking notes on their upcoming opponents. It forms part of an excellent double header and gives either side an opportunity to send out a message. With Gary Brennan, Clondegad are always going to be in the mix. Collectively, Cratloe are the better football team and this should see them prevail.
There are four groups of three in the intermediate. Wolfe Tones (Group One), Naomh Eoin (Group Two), Shannon Gaels (Group Three) and St Breckans (Group Four) all have byes this weekend.
Clare SFC Rnd1
Kilmurry Ibrickane v Lissycasey in Kilmihil at 14:30 (Group Two)
St Josephs Miltown v Kilmihil in Cooraclare at 15:00 (Group One)
Ennistymon v Doonbeg in Cusack Park at 12:00 (Group Three)
Cratloe v Clondegad in Cusack Park at 13:45 (Group Four)
Kilrush v Naomh Eoin/O’Currys in Kilkee at 18:30 (Group One)
Clare IFC Rnd1
St Senans Kilkee v O’Currys in Doonbeg at 13:30 (Group Three)
Kilfenora v Liscannor in Ennistymon at 15:30 (Group One)
Kildysart v St Josephs Doora/Barefield in Lissycasey at 18:30 (Group Two)
Coolmeen v Éire Óg in Lissycasey at 18:30 (Group Four)