Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Down South
5 talking points as Cratloe and Kilmallock bid for Munster club hurling glory
The sides face off at the Gaelic Grounds tomorrow afternoon.

AIB GAA Club Championships - #TheToughest Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE Cratloe's Conor Ryan and Kilmallock's Graeme Mulcahy. Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

1. Cratloe try to bounce back from defeat

Conor Ryan outlined during the week just how busy the Cratloe players have been over the past few months. Since Clare bowed out of the Liam MacCarthy Cup race in July at the hands of Wexford, the Cratloe senior squads have only had a single weekend off since then. With a huge crossover between the club’s hurling and football sides, it’s meant there’s been little free time in the player’s diaries.

It didn’t perturb them as they went on a remarkable winning run that landed two Clare titles and the provincial double dream was only scuppered last Sunday by The Nire footballers at the Fraher Field. That result means the team are now in the unusual situation of trying to bounce back from a defeat for the first time in 2014. Will it hinder them?

Th maturity of this group of players would indicate that their focus shifted immediately last Sunday evening towards this hurling battle. There will have been little need to train this week, it’s all about getting the minds right.

The Nire team celebrate the final whistle Ken Sutton / INPHO Disappointed Cratloe players after the defeat to The Nire. Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

2. Clare legends go toe to toe on the sideline

It’s just under two decades since Clare’s breakthrough All-Ireland win in 1995 but the impact of that team is still being felt on the hurling landscape. Davy Fitzgerald is presiding over Clare, Anthony Daly has recently stepped down in Dublin while Ollie Baker’s Kilmacud side are in the Leinster semi-final against Ballyhale on Sunday.

The Munster senior battle this weekend is an intriguing one though. On one side there is Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin, who has guided Kilmallock to this stage in his first year in charge. He’ll have his own personal motivation after being at the helm when Adare lost the 2008 Munster club final to Waterford’s De La Salle, a seven-point lead spilling out of their hands in the last 20 minutes.

Then Cratloe, who are managed by Toomevara native Joe McGrath – the father of Clare senior Conor, have Brian Lohan and Alan Neville amongst their selectors. Lohan was the defensive totem on that Clare 1995 side while Neville came on as a sub in the final win over Offaly.

Gavin O'Mahony celebrates with Ger O'Loughlin Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Ger O'Loughlin and Gavin O'Mahony celebrates after Kilmallock's win over Thurles Sarsfields. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

3. Kilmallock’s envy at Na Piarsaigh’s success

Graeme Mulcahy freely admitted that watching Na Piarsaigh morph from Limerick champions into Munster champions in 2011 and 2013, prompted a sense of jealousy amongst Mulcahy and his Kilmallock teammates. Kilmallock won Limerick crowns in 2010 and 2012 but were felled in Munster by Thurles Sarsfields during both seasons.

They’d stewed while watching their Limerick rivals experience provincial glory and after landing county honours in last month’s final against Na Piarsaigh, Kilmallock steeled themselves for Munster. Their semi-final win on their home patch against Sarsfields in an extra-time classic places them in good stead for tomorrow’s final as they seek to follow in their fellow county side’s footsteps.

Graeme Mulcahy lifts the cup Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Kilmallock players celebrate their recent Limerick county final win. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

Exclusive Six
Nations Analysis

Get Murray Kinsella’s exclusive analysis of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign this spring

Become a Member

4. The impact of Conor McGrath’s scoring streak

Scan an eye over Cratloe’s progress to this stage and there’s one trait in their victories shining through. The scoring streak of Conor McGrath has been incomparable in their team and he’s lived up to his status as a leading county man.

Check McGrath’s scoring returns. 3-4 in the Clare semi-final against Clarecastle, 0-6 in the Clare final against Crusheen, 2-4 in the Munster quarter-final against Ballygunner and 0-11 in the Munster semi-final against Thurles Sarsfields. That’s a total of 5-25 from four games with 5-12 of that from play. He’s in red-hot form and Kilmallock need to curb his attacking threat.

Conor McGrath Ken Sutton / INPHO Conor McGrath on the attack for Cratloe. Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

5.  Plenty at stake in another Clare-Limerick battle

It’s the third time in four years that we’ve a Clare and Limerick battle to look forward to in a  Munster senior hurling club final. The narrative so far points to Limerick dominance with Na Piarsaigh’s triumphs coming at the expense of Crusheen and Sixmilebridge. Neither of tomorrow’s protagonists are going to lack motivation.

Kilmallock’s players will have been reared on tales of the club greats that won out in Munster in 1992 and 1994. This is the chance to carve their own niche. Cratloe for their part are appearing in their first ever Munster club hurling final. Last year at the Gaelic Grounds, they agonisingly lost a Munster football decider by a point to Dr Crokes. They return to the same venue with a view to avenging that defeat.

– First published 07.00, 22 Nov

Podge Collins dishes the dirt on his Cratloe hurling teammates

Cratloe power past Thurles Sarsfields to book a place in Munster decider

48 scores in classic Munster club hurling semi-final as Kilmallock see off Sarsfields