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Pressure mounting as Clare SHC reaches second round

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*David Reidy. Photograph: Martin Connolly

Championship aspirations will become more defined as the second round takes place in the Clare club hurling scene over the weekend.

Eight games will be played, seven on Saturday and one on Sunday. Games marked with a (W) are those in the winners section, successful teams here advance to the last eight with the defeated clubs getting a second chance in Round Three. Fixtures followed by (L) are in the losers section, winning is crucial here to secure a place in the third round while a successive loss will place teams in the relegation semi-finals.

Title holders Ballyea face a Davy Fitzgerald coached Sixmilebridge out to take the Canon Hamilton home for the fourteenth time in their history and the fourth this decade. Losing is not that bad for either outfit as it guarantees an extra game in the third round with the winner advancing straight to the quarter-finals. Tony Kelly and Niall Deasy continue to be in top form for Ballyea assisted by Jack Browne, Paul Flanagan, Gary Brennan and a workrate that needs to be matched. Sixmilebridge possess the stronger balance but winning the big battles will determine how they fare.

Crusheen and Feakle face off in what will be a very tight encounter. Both are delighted to have won their first rounds where in truth neither were pushed to their absolute capacity. The Blood and Bandages have successfully moulded youngsters Ross Hayes and Breffni Horner into key players while for Feakle their core group of talent is aged between 22-28. A quarter-final place is not to be scoffed at so both teams will be very keen to maintain their unbeaten run in the championship.

Nothing was expected of Éire Óg in the opening round when they surprised Kilmaley and despite that they still go as complete outsiders when they travel to East Clare to face Clonlara. The Townies are not yet near full strength but the character building win two weeks ago is bound to have a positive effect, this plus the form of David Reidy and Shane O’Donnell is very valuable. Ian Galvin is back in the mix for Dave Cuddy’s men but whether he features or not remains to be seen. They were impressive in defeating O’Callaghans Mills and have clocked up an above average Clare Cup campaign, they should put back to back wins together but they cannot afford the underestimate the Ennis club.

Without the services of Sean Collins and Diarmuid Ryan is a setback for Cratloe but it’s a small dent considering the talent they have at their disposal. They had a real scare in the first round vs Whitegate which should have them forewarned for the remainder of the championship. Inagh/Kilnamona on the otherhand didn’t get such a fright when overcoming Tulla but the outing allowed them to bounce back from the disappointment of the Clare Cup Final. It’s an ideal chance for Fergal Hegarty’s charges to see where they are at and they won’t get a better chance of beating last year’s finalists.

None of the teams in the losers section bar Clooney/Quin and Whitegate will have been happy with their display in the first round. They all have just sixty minutes to turn their season around and so that brings with an extent of pressure to deliver, putting it simply the teams that cope best with this and respond to their disappointing displays will secure a second bite at the cherry.

Neutrals could do worse than head to the intermediate meeting of St Josephs Doora/Barefield and Broadford, two teams that have made no qualms about their desire to be back in the top grade. It may be the first of two meetings between them in this year’s championship but it should reveal a lot as to who will be securing promotion to the top table.

Clare SHC Rnd 2
Saturday
Newmarket-on-Fergus v O’Callaghans Mills in O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge at 13:30 (L)
Tulla v Wolfe Tones in Clarecastle at 14:30 (L)
Clonlara v Éire Óg in Glenmora Park, Broadford at 15:00 (W)
Kilmaley v Whitegate in O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge at 15:00 (L)
Clooney/Quin v Clarecastle in Shannon at 16:00 (L)
Crusheen v Feakle in Cusack Park at 16:45 (W)
Sixmilebridge v Ballyea in Cusack Park at 18:15 (W)

Sunday
Cratloe v Inagh/Kilnamona in Cusack Park at 12:00 (W)

Clare IHC Round 2
Saturday
Cratloe v Clarecastle in Fr Murphy Memorial Park, Newmarket-on-Fergus at 13:00 (L)
Ruan v Bodyke in Clarecastle at 16:00 (L)
Tubber v Corofin in Dr Daly Park, Tulla at 16:45 (W)
St Josephs Doora/Barefield v Broadford in Shannon at 17:45 (W)
Scariff v Parteen in Dr Daly Park, Tulla at 18:15 (W)
Smith O’Briens v Inagh/Kilnamona in The Evicted Field, Bodyke at 18:15 (W)

Sunday
Sixmilebridge v Newmarket-on-Fergus in Gurteen at 12:00 (L)
Killanena v Éire Óg in Crusheen at 12:30 (L)

Newmarket-on-Fergus native, Páraic McMahon is a freelance journalist and broadcaster currently working for numerous national and local publications including The Clare Echo, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, RTÉ, TheJournal.ie, The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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