6 Talking Points before this weekend's GAA club action

The Clare senior football final and the AIB provincial club championships take centre stage again this weekend.

Oulart-The-Ballagh face Kilcormac-Killoughey on Sunday.
Oulart-The-Ballagh face Kilcormac-Killoughey on Sunday.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

1. A hectic football schedule awaits in Clare

For the first time in 126 years, Cratloe appear in a Clare senior football final tomorrow.

Their opponents Doonbeg have 18 titles to their name but have only won one of the last ten deciders – a time period where their near neighbours Kilmurry-Ibrickane have won five crowns in Clare and two in Munster.

So tomorrow’s decider in Cusack Park is a hugely significant occasion then for the two clubs involved in what is the last county senior final of 2013. Victory will be one to cherish.

But the fly in the ointment is that they will not be able to celebrate for too long. Whoever wins tomorrow in Ennis will be called back into action on Sunday for a Munster semi-final tie.

Waterford’s Ballinacourty await the winners with Doonbeg to enjoy home advantage in West Clare if they triumph while Cratloe will return to Cusack Park to play if they win. The schedule is an offshoot of Clare’s extended hurling summer but the frenzied schedule is hardly ideal for the players involved.

2. Oulart seek to end run of Offaly defeats

Oulart-The-Ballagh’s attempt to land a provincial title rumbles on. They recently completed five-in-a-row in Wexford but are still chasing a first Leinster crown after five final defeats, including the last three.

Their last two losses have both arrived to Offaly opponents by four points – Coolderry bettering them in 2011 and Kilcormac-Killoughey replicating that feat in 2012.

On Sunday, Oulart-The-Ballagh head to Tullamore for a semi-final joust with last year’s conquerors. Getting a grip on the game early on is key for Oulart-The-Ballagh.

In their last two showdowns against Offaly opposition they have trailed at the break and conceded the first goal of the game to cede the initiative to their opponents. A good start is vital on Sunday.

3. Managing seven-day turnaround key for Sixmilebridge and Ballyboden

Sixmilebridge and Ballyboden both landed the spoils in their respective county finals last Sunday – wins admirably achieved at a time of year where the weather does little to encourage hurling.

The question now is to whether they bask in the glow of those wins or try to get their minds right for an assault on another campaign. Both are through to provincial semi-finals and will be aware there is the tantalising prospect of a bigger prize in the offing.

Sixmilebridge have a vibrant history in Munster, appearing in eight finals and winning three of them. But only Niall Gilligan and Tadgh Keogh from the current side were part of the last Sixmilebridge team that set sail into Munster in 2002. That should ensure motivation ahead of Sunday’s game against Midleton.

And Ballyboden must be fired up at the prospect of hurling in Leinster. They have accumulated six Dublin titles in the last seven years but have not added Leinster silverware in that time. Mount Leinster Rangers are their first assignment on Sunday.


Sixmilebridge celebrate last Sunday’s win.
Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer

4. Trying to follow up an Ulster victory over Crossmaglen

Kilcoo finally got the better of Crossmaglen last Sunday at the third attempt in just under 12 months. It was a fine victory against the Armagh giants who have swept to six of the last seven Ulster crowns.

The Down club showed the endurance to win after 80 minutes of action and the creativity to prise open the Crossmaglen defence for two valuable goals during extra-time.

But how do they follow that up now? Manager Jim McCorry was quick to point out last week that they had only won a quarter-final tie and spoke of the urgent need to recover in time for Sunday’s looming challenge against Ballinderry. A failure to win there would leave last Sunday’s victory looking hollow.

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5. Can Conor Lehane continue his scoring heroics?

The undisputed scoring star of the Cork senior hurling final last Sunday week was Conor Lehane. He struck 2-10 to inspire Midleton to claim a first county crown at that grade since 1991.

Hitting 2-7 from play in their 2-15 to 2-13 win against the reigning champions was evidence of Lehane’s worth. He struck some majestic points and bagged two classy first-half goals.

Last Saturday night, Lehane followed it up by hitting 0-9 as Midleton reached the Cork U21 hurling final with a 0-17 to 1-12 win over Mallow.

The Cork senior is currently rich vein of form. Quelling his threat is crucial for Clare’s Sixmilebridge in Sunday’s Munster semi-final and with Luke O’Farrell away on holidays, Lehane’s influence will be even more pronounced.

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6. Time to applaud Loughmore-Castleiney

It’s not an easy task for Loughmore-Castleiney tomorrow. They will travel over 170km to Killarney to face a Dr Crokes team, who are bidding for their third successive Munster title this year, and that will be playing in their own backyard. Wisdom dictates that the Kerry football champions will have the advantage over their Tipperary counterparts.

Yet for Loughmore-Castleiney, Saturday represents the latest chapter in an extraordinary season. They won the Tipperary senior hurling title and only bowed out in Munster after a classic against Na Piarsaigh, in a game where they played with 13 men for nearly half an hour.

Then they won the Tipperary senior football title to become the first team in the county to claim that particular double in the one year. For a club drawing players from a small community between Thurles and Templemore, being a dual senior force in Munster is a remarkable feat.

Here’s the key GAA club fixtures for the week ahead

6 Talking Points after the weekend’s GAA club action

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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