*Ikem Ugwueru has impressed at centre forward. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
ÉIRE ÓG’s bid to retain the Jack Daly continues apace with the Ennis club securing their place in the quarter-finals of the Clare SFC.
So far it’s two wins from two outings for Paul Madden’s charges who have dismantled the challenge of St Breckan’s and St Joseph’s Miltown to date.
A 3-11 0-13 win over Miltown guaranteed a place in the knockout stages which ticked the initial objective of this year’s campaign. “We’re into the quarter-finals, that was the goal at the start of the championship, we’ve a tough group with four good teams, we came out the right side of it today, it was into the mix right until the last few minutes where we got a couple of goals. I was unhappy with a few of the turnovers in the first half, some basic handling errors, it was a warm day out there today and both sides felt it towards the end, the pace went out of the game but we’re one foot in the quarter-final, that’s what we want”.
Ultan Sheils and Gavin D’Auria made their first senior championship appearances from the bench while Cathal Darcy returned for the Townies having missed all of last year’s run with a cruciate ligament injury. “Our Juniors are going well, it’s important for the club and the lads are training really hard with us, we do everything together but we’ve more games coming up and we need to trust in these lads and we do,” Madden said of the new additions.
Mark McInerney’s return of 3-01 was central to the win while Gavin Cooney’s exceptional fielding in the opening half caused mayhem for Miltown. “Gavin did really well, when he is on he is on and he was great in the first half, he was good in the second half but we didn’t get as much ball in. Mark’s finishing was good at the end, he contrived to miss one of them I think, I didn’t realise he got the three of them,” the Éire Óg boss remarked.
This was indicative of a more clinical approach, he felt. “There was passages of our play that was a little bit more clinical today but there was some mistakes and I think you’re going to get that. We’re playing senior championship against a team that has won three championships in the last eight years, they’re no mugs, they were fighting for their championship lives but they are not out of it either, they still have a chance. It’s a tough group, it’s senior football but as long as we come out on the right side of tough games then I’m happy”.
Last year following their battle with Doonbeg at St Michael’s Park, Paul spoke of a narrative which questioned if Éire Óg were capable of winning in West Clare following disappointments in previous campaigns versus Kilmurry Ibrickane at Cooraclare and Doonbeg in Hennessy Memorial Park, Miltown Malbay.
Speaking to The Clare Echo approximately 20m and one year on from those comments, he emphasised that playing in West Clare is no obstacle to Éire Óg. “Kilmihil is in great shape and the sun is shining today, it’s a different scenario from last year, there’s never been an issue with us coming out of Ennis to play games, it’s a field with fifteen on fifteen and five subs coming on, as long as our lads are doing what we’re asking them and working hard, we’ve a chance wherever it is on”.
Madden outlined that the club are hopeful of having two teams in the senior quarter-finals with their hurlers facing off with Clooney/Quin on Sunday. “The aim for the club is to get both teams to the quarter-final in hurling and football. The Clooney/Quin game is a massive one for the club”.
St Joseph’s Miltown find themselves under pressure with a second defeat under their belts. Manager, Martin Flynn reflected, “We came up against a very good Éire Óg team, we were with them for forty minutes and ultimately the first goal put them on the front foot and we were under pressure from then on, we proceeded to concede two more goals from that, we came up against a good team and we were down a good few with injuries but we have to play with what we have”.
Darragh McDonagh cracked two ribs in the opening round joining Gordon Kelly and Enda O’Gorman on the injured list while Miltown were dealt a sucker punch when the lively Cormac Murray was forced off prior to half-time. “To lose Cormac on top of the players we had lost already like Darragh, Enda O’Gorman, Gordon Kelly and more. Cormac was on fire against Corofin, he was on fire at the start of the game and a massive loss for us, we can’t afford to be without players of his ability”.
The fitness of Murray and McDonagh will be assessed closer to the final round with St Breckan’s but full-back Seanie Malone is suspended, having received a straight red card on fifty nine minutes against Éire Óg. Flynn admitted, “That was a bit silly, at that stage of the game, the game was gone, he should be able to hold his head, that hasn’t helped our case”.
“We’ll have to see where we stand and what we’re facing. It’s back to the wall, we’re under serious pressure to get a win and see where it gets us,” he said of their clash with Donie Garrihy’s St Breckans.