West SHC Final Preview
Clonoulty-Rossmore will be hoping for a record sixth title-in-a-row when they take on Eire Óg in the Tipperary Co-Op Super Valu West senior hurling championship final at Golden on Sunday afternoon. They already equal Kickhams record of five-in-a-row won between 1952 and 1956 and, at an earlier stage, they won four-in-a-row between 1930 and 1933.
They are the bookie’s favourite to achieve the record though opponents, Eire Óg, will have a completely different opinion on the outcome.
When the sides met in the group stage on May 6, Clonoulty met a stiff challenge from Eire Óg and only came through in the end by the minimum of margins following a spirited performance during the final quarter. John O’Neill was a key player during this period, following his move out to the half-forward line. Eire Óg probably deserved a draw on that occasion. This game was a very close encounter with little time or space given to either side to settle on the ball.
The West is the last of the divisional senior hurling finals to be played this year, which is unusual for a division which traditionally has been the first to complete its program of games. This was caused by the number of players with county commitments in Eire Óg, and to a lesser extent, Cashel, which delayed the playing of their semi-final game.
Clonoulty will go into the game carrying the expectations of their supporters, but also of a large number of neutrals. This confidence is based on their standing in the county hurling world in which they qualified for the last two county hurling finals, albeit beaten on both occasions. On top of that is their record of victories in the last five West finals. This is a tremendous record and an indication of the talent at their disposal. Allied to that is the experience gained from top class games during these years.
The team has been hit by injuries, particularly Thomas Butler, who is recovering from a cruciate ligament injury and Kieran Quirke, who has a broken draw. However, their panel is wide enough to absorb these injuries and it is strengthened by two players, John O’Neill and Timmy Hammersley, on the county senior panel. Their preparation for Sunday’s game has gone well and they are trying to concentrate on winning a West title rather than thinking of records or what the county championship might bring.
And what of Eire Óg and their chances of upsetting the odds? They’re definitely not going into the game with the intention of making up the numbers. They have gained confidence from their earlier meeting with the opposition and see that game as one that may have got away though a failure to take their chances. At their best they are an impressive combination and when they move as a unit they can be a lethal force. We had one glimpse of this capacity which resulted in a goal in the game against Cashel. They also have the experience and expertise that comes from having seven players on various county panels. This brings a new level of confidence to these players and it should stand them in good stead in a tight match.
But, having said that, Eire Óg’s chances of upsetting the odds will depend on the form and the performance they bring to the final. They have the talent and the experience and if they deliver their best game on the day they can upset most people’s expectations of the outcome.