*Feakle’s Shane McGrath. Photograph: Mark Hayes
As they complete their preparations for Saturday’s clash with Whitegate at O’Garney park in Sixmilebridge, Feakle manager Mike Guilfoyle is under no illusions as to the task his side is facing.
Management: Michael Guilfoyle (manager), John Tuohy, Stevie Moloney.
Captain: Oisin Donnellan
Most recent: 1988
Key player: Shane McGrath
Fresh blood: Enda Madden
Fun fact: Feakle stopped playing challenge games in the lead up to the first round due to injury concerns.
“Look Whitegate beat Feakle in the intermediate finals of 2009 and 2013. They have relegated St. Josephs Doora-Barevield twice. They know how to battle to the end and they have caused a number of shocks at senior level in recent times”, former Clare player Guilfoyle said this week.
It’s thirty two years since the blue riband of Clare hurling last came to Feakle who were crowned county senior champions for the sixth time back in 1988. “That’s a long time. From ‘99 to 2014 we were intermediate. We won promotion but went back down before regaining senior status in 2018”, Guilfoyle explained.
Indeed the East Clare outfit went within a whisker of winning the Munster intermediate title later that year but were pipped by Cork champions Charleville in a cracking contest at the LIT Gaelic grounds in Limerick.
In last year’s senior championship Feakle started with a victory over Newmarket-on-Fergus before losing out to Crusheen in Round 2. They needed to win in Round 3 and they obliged, recording a two point win over Clooney-Quin in a very entertaining game.
That win earned them a quarter final date with Inagh-Kilnamona who managed a two point victory (1-28 to 1-26) in the quarter final.
Asked for his view on this year’s format Guilfoyle promptly replied “I do not want to lose in the opening round and that is my message to the players at training. It will be hard to lift lads to play a winner in round 2 if they are defeated in the opening game. The second round game is crucial and teams will have to perform in that round if they are to remain in the race”, he said.
Guilfoyle went on to say that “there is a certain amount of pressure gone because of the fact that there is no relegation this year. We are at an age with a bunch of guys that are at their best and we are trying to achieve something with them”.
There are injury concerns. Fiachra Donnellan is out due to a cruciate injury while both Martin Daly and Justin Nelson are battling to be back in action following cruciate injuries
At the time of the lockdown back in March, Eibhear Quiligan was challenging strongly for the goalkeeper’s position on the Clare senior team. He is a key figure for Feakle who will also be looking to Evan McMahon, Con Smyth, Eoin Tuohy, Steven Conway, sharpshooter Shane McGrath and Oisin Donnellan
They were all prominent as they helped Feakle-Killanena to success at various underage levels up to and including under 21. They are a very close knit group which is reflected in their play.
Manager Guilfoyle is a passionate Feakle man as are his selectors John Tuohy and Stevie Moloney. There is a strong determination within the squad to avenge those intermediate final losses of ‘09 and ‘2013 and if they can manage to strike their best form they should be narrowly ahead when the final whistle sounds.