Spotlight falls on Clare club hurling final

Weekend GAA county final previews

Seán Collins with his brother Podge will be aiming to defeat Crusheen to  win the Clare hurling title. Photograph: Inpho

Seán Collins with his brother Podge will be aiming to defeat Crusheen to win the Clare hurling title. Photograph: Inpho

 

Sunday

Down SFC final Burren v Kilcoo, Páirc Esler, 4.0 – A repeat of last year’s final sees new Down manager Jim McCorry in charge as Kilcoo attempt a third successive county title. Former All-Ireland winners Burren again provide the opposition. It should be evenly balanced with county players on either side – Kevin McKernan, Daniel McCartan and sharp-shooter Donal O’Hare for the challengers and the Johnston brothers, Ryan and Jerome, and Conor Laverty for the champions, who are deservedly slight favourites to rack up the three-in-a-row.

Fermanagh SFC final Teemore Shamrocks v Roslea Shamrocks, Brewster Park, 3.30 – Hot favourites Roslea chase their fourth successive title against a Teemore side fallen on hard times, as evidenced by relegation from Division One in the county league. The holders romped through their semi-final whereas it was a tighter affair for Teemore against Devenish but being underdogs didn’t stop them then. County veteran and former All Star Barry Owens drives things from centrefield but Roslea, managed by former Tyrone player Mark Harte, have Seán and Séamus Quigley at the cutting edge and should prove too sharp.

Monaghan SFC final Clontibret O’Neills v Scotstown, Clones, 4.0 – Scotstown took away the club’s first county title in 20 years 12 months ago against the same opposition. In something of a tactical coup they placed full forward Kieran Hughes at the other end of the field to counter Clontibret All Star Conor McManus. Such is the reliance on the brilliant forward that once he was stymied by Hughes the team didn’t have many options. Scotstown have kicked on in the last year and should retain the title.

Longford SFC final Emmet Óg Clonoe v St Columba’s, Mullinalaghta, Pearse Park, 3.30 – St Columba’s are back in the county final for the first time in 62 years and haven’t won the title since 1950. A club on the border with Cavan they have a young team based on some good underage sides and pulled off a surprise win over Clonguish in the semi-finals. They are underdogs again going in against the 2012 champions but if they can keep it tight there’s a chance of upsetting the odds.

Clare SHC final Cratloe v Crusheen, Cusack Park, 3.30 (Live on TG4)– Interest is very high for this with 10,000 expected in Ennis. Cratloe are edging towards a football and hurling double, which hasn’t been done before in Clare. Defending football champions, they are well favoured to win this with an abundance of quality players for a club side. Crusheen won’t roll over, however, as they try to add to the titles they won in 2010 and ’12 when they were also outsiders, as they have been for much of the current campaign including when they felled title favourites Clonlara in the semi-final. They’re built from the back and on a large contingent of Dillon brothers, four of whom are likely to start, led by Clare All-Ireland winner Cian at centre back. They have received a couple of strokes of fortune with former Clare captain Pat Vaughan cleared of a red card picked up in the defeat of Clonlara and the breaking weather, which could slow things down to the detriment of young opposition hoping for top-of-the-ground hurling.

The difficulty will be to hold at bay Cratloe, who are well versed in the short, running game, practised by the county side, with the Collins brothers Seán and Podge as well as Cathal McInerney, scoring less but creating more, Conor Ryan and the currently unstoppable Conor McGrath, scorer of 3-4 in the semi-final defeat of Clarecastle.

Waterford SHC final Ballygunner v Mount Sion, Walsh Park, 3.30pm (Deferred, TG4)– These two traditionally big guns haven’t met in a final for eight years and, in an unprecedented title famine since they started winning them in the 1930s, Mount Sion haven’t been champions since. They’re outsiders with just four of the 2006 medallists still around – including the eternal Tony Browne – and coming up against a club that has been in 13 of the past 16 deciders. The Gunners are happy to have Philip Mahony back after a leg break sustained earlier in the summer.

Mount Sion have tightened the defence by switching Austin Gleeson to centre back but the forward capability has been affected. If the weather slows the pitch significantly Mount Sion would benefit but Ballygunner look more likely to regain the trophy they last won three years ago. Whoever wins will have a home draw for the first round and semi-final of Munster if they keep going.

Kildare SHC final Celbridge v Coill Dubh, Newbridge, 4.0 – Meeting for the fourth time in 10 finals, the clubs are familiar with each other but champions Celbridge are fancied to retain the title.

Wicklow SHC final Bray Emmets v Glenealy, Aughrim, 3.15 – Glenealy go into the weekend with the good vibes of Leighton Glynn’s announcement he was retiring from intercounty football to concentrate on the small ball. John Henderson’s Bray won the recent league final but neither team was at full strength.

– SEÁN MORAN

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