Each club will be looking to get off to the perfect start; a win takes pressure off teams hoping to avoid relegation and also puts the wheels in motion for a serious bid to conquer the Jack Daly Cup. A defeat is not the be all and end all as teams can still enter the fray through the back door.
St Josephs Doora Barefield vs Shannon Gaels 14:30 on 26/07/14 at Lissycasey:
The first tie taking place in the 2014 Championship is the clash of St Josephs Doora Barefield and Shannon Gaels. The Parish have yet to bounce back following the county final defeats of 2012 and 2011 where they were comfortably dispatched by Kilmurry Ibrickane on both occasions. Since then they have lost players such as Colm Mullen and Cathal O Sullivan to retirement and the Lyons brothers, Greg and Enda to emigration. On the other hand that has given younger less experienced players the chance to step up and prove their worth. There are question marks over the availability of Alan O Neill and Jarlath Colleran for Saturday’s match as they will be involved with the Clare U-21 hurlers on Wednesday. Shannon Gaels are without their best player of the last decade as John Paul O Neill has decided to hang up his boots. His presence will be greatly missed by the Labasheeda men in attack once the ball is thrown in come Saturday afternoon. However, the addition of multiple All Ireland medallist with the Cork Ladies Footballers, Amy O Shea, to the Gaels management for 2014 should bring with it a winning mentality and that is what Shannon Gaels will be hoping. They will be depending on Nigel Hehir, Michael O Donogue, Noel Kennedy and Shane Tubridy for big performances. Doora Barefield should come out on top in this one, with the likes of Cathal Duggan, Sean Flynn and Stephen Collins expected to be their main men.
O Currys vs St Josephs Miltown 15:00 on 26/07/14 at Doonbeg:
It is the intermediate champions of 2012 facing off against the intermediate champions of 2013 in this affair. Miltown are being tipped as possible championship contenders and their opponents are expected to put up a fight as always but aren’t being tipped to be still standing when the race for Jack Daly nears its conclusion. But focus is firmly on Saturday for both of these sides and it is going to be a tight edgy tie. Dinny Mc Mahon is still in the hotseat with O Currys while this year sees Doonbeg legend Tommy Tubridy join his management team while Michael Liddane is also involved. They will be relying on Sean Haugh, Eoin Troy, Tom Downes, Eoin Brew and the ever reliable Ger Quinlan to get them over the line. No confirmation has been given as to whether or not Conor Cleary will play a part for Miltown as he will be lining out with the Clare U-21 hurling team that attempt to regain their Munster crown, his ball winning abilities would be a big asset for them if he were to be available. Miltown will be hoping Gordon Kelly brings the same fight and determination from last week into battle with him and they will also need Eoin Cleary, Seanie Malone and Eoin Curtin to stand up and be counted. It will be a close one, but Miltown should edge it.
Kilmurry Ibrickane vs St Senans Kilkee 16:30 on 26/07/14 at Doonbeg:
It is a repeat of the 2009 County Final, where the Bricks were victorious by three points and their last meeting was in 2010 when the gap increased to thirteen points. Dermot Coughlan is in his first year as manager of this Kilmurry side and in what is the centenary year for the club, expectation has increased in the club that Jack Daly will be back West, following a brief vacation in Cratloe. They have the talent to become County Champions, but their first obstacle on that road, comes in the shape of Kilkee. The Saints have been one of the worst affected clubs in the country when it comes to emigration. That is evident in their fall in the rankings of the football teams in Clare and in the clubs struggle to find volunteers to occupy the positions of Chairman and Secretary as well as finding a management team. Aidan ‘Horse’ Maloney started the year as manager of Kilrush Shamrocks but departed following a dreadful league campaign and is now the man in charge of Kilkee. He raised Jack Daly afloat as captain of the Bricks in 2002 but since he became involved with the Saints, he is now plotting the downfall of his native club. Player-Selector, David Russell along with Michael O Shea, Darragh Kelly and Evan Garvey will need to be at their best if they’re to cause a massive shock. Enda Coughlan, Martin Mc Mahon and Shane Hickey should do enough to inspire the Bricks to a first round win.
Clondegad vs St Breckans 18:00 on 26/07/14 at Cusack Park:
Two teams not long out of the intermediate ranks go head to head on Saturday evening in Cusack Park. They faced off in the 2010 intermediate decider with St Breckans coming out on top, a lot has changed since then with these clubs including changes in management, retirement, emigration and Clondegads Gary Brennan is now being viewed as one of the best ball winners to ever wear the Saffron and Blue. Needless to say a tactic that will be employed by the Francis Hawes managed Breckans is to keep the ball away from Brennan at every possible opportunity while Michael Hehir’s Clondegad will be aiming to do the opposite. Clondegad will be without Clare U-21s Tony Kelly and Gearoid O Connell but they should still have enough with Gary Brennan, Shane Brennan, Podge Mc Mahon and Brian Carrig expected to be to the fore. St Breckans will be looking to Daniel Carey, Pat Nagle, Conor Howley and Clare Minor Aidan Davidson for guidance.
Doonbeg vs Ennistymon 19:00 on 26/07/14 at Miltown:
It’s the clash of the two magpies of Clare football, Doonbeg in the West and Ennistymon in the North. Doonbeg are wounded following their County Final defeat to Cratloe in 2013 and they’re anxious for another shot at the title, they will have their work cut out for them against Ennistymon who have been one of the most successful underage football clubs in Clare over the last decade. There are injury concerns over experienced Doonbeg duo, Conor Whelan and Padraig Gallagher and it looks highly unlikely that either will start Saturday’s clash. Kieran O Neill is in his second year as Doonbeg manager and he will be doing his upmost to ensure Doonbeg recover from the hurt of last year and mount a serious title bid. Ennistymon fell at the quarter final stage to Lissycasey last year and manager Brendan Rouine will be hopeful they can build on last years campaign. They will be counting on Laurence Healy, Enda Ralph, Sean O Driscoll and Oisin Vaughan to get their championship off to the best possible start. Doonbeg’s experience and hunger should get them over the line and they will need David Tubridy, Frank O Dea, Conor Downes and Shane Ryan firing on all cylinders in order to do this.
Eire Og vs Cratloe 19:30 on 26/07/14 at Cusack Park:
Billed as the tie of the round, it is a repeat of last year’s semi-final which saw Cratloe secure a five point win and then march on to win their first ever senior football title. The Townies will be eager to put the record straight and put the champions under immense pressure in their bid to retain the Jack Daly. Former Clare goalkeeper, James Hanrahan is still the man in charge of Eire Og and he will be anxious to follow the same path as last year by gaining a win in the first round. It isn’t clear whether Ciaran Russell will be fit to play after he was stretchered off in Clare’s one point defeat at the hands of Kildare. It will be up to Dean Ryan, Darren O Neill, Shane Daniels and Liam Corry to lead by example for the Townies while Eimhin Courteney and James Woods will also need to play big parts. Cratloe will be without some of their big names for Saturday’s clash, Cathal Mc Inerney and Liam Markham are abroad and their presence will be greatly missed in the Cratloe attack. Still Cratloe have a strong squad to pick from and players such as Sean Collins, Conor Ryan, Podge Collins, Conor Mc Grath, Pierce DeLoughrey and Barry Duggan will need to be at their very best to counteract the loss of Markham and Mc Inerney. This one will go right down to the wire and could go either way, but it should go the way of the 2013 champions, just.
Cooraclare vs Kilrush Shamrocks 14:30 on 27/07/14 at Labasheeda:
These sides met in the first round of the championship last year on the third of August at the same venue, with Cooraclare coming out on top with three points to spare. Will it be déjà vu for Kilrush? More than likely it will be. Cooraclare exited at the quarter final stage last year following a seven point defeat against Doonbeg, they will want to build on that and Sunday will be a great indication to see how much they built on last year. Kilrush won’t lie down against Cooraclare and they will require the likes of Rory Donnelly, Declan Mc Mahon, Thomas Downes and Michael Kelly at their best if they are to overcome Kilrush. The Shams are not as strong as they were last year; their league form has been abysmal and led to the resignation of Aidan Maloney who was replaced by Jimmy Murray. Added on to that the loss of Chris Dixon to emigration and former county star John Hayes has not been part of the Kilrush setup so far this year and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. In recent years they have lost two of their greatest warriors, Peadar Mc Mahon and Donal O Sullivan to retirement and goalkeeper Tony Burke has had to retire due to an injury, so the onus is on the younger players to step up and cause an upset. They will be looking to Jim Young, Rory O Connor and Liam Madigan for big performances. Cooraclare should come out on top but it will be no walk in the park.
Lissycasey vs Liscannor 18:00 on 27/07/14 at Cooraclare:
Two evenly matched teams will do battle in Cooraclare on Sunday evening when Lissycasey come face to face with the men of Liscannor. Lissycasey reached the semi-final stage last year but met a superior Doonbeg outfit whereas Liscannor exited in round two, with defeats to Doora Barefield and Kilmurry Ibrickane knocking them out of the championship race. Barry Donnelly is in his second year as Lissycasey manager and he will be hopeful of getting a win against Liscannor. In order to do this the performances of Joe Hayes, Francie Hayes, Gerry Moran and Conor Finucane will have to be of high quality. Liscannor will be counting on Alan Clohessy, Brian Considine, Darren Nagle and Shane Canavan to acquire a first round win. This game will be very tight and could go either way but it looks like it will go Lissycasey’s way.