Éire Óg and Clonoulty gear up for enticing West Tipperary senior hurling final

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Éire Óg and Clonoulty gear up for enticing West Tipperary senior hurling final

Pictured at the launch of the Tipperary Co-Op West Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship final were: Michael McCarthy, Conor O'Brien, Fiachra O'Keeffe, John Daly, John O'Shea and Willie Ryan.

For the first time since the foundation of the division in 1930 just two teams will take to the field for this year’s Tipperary Co-Op West Senior Hurling Championship final.

Clonoulty and Solohead met in Golden on June 29th 1930 in a game that was refereed by Cashel’s Mick Dargan and was described as “one of the cleanest and manliest games played for years” - the game was won by Clonoulty on a score-line of 4-1 to 1-1.

Clonoulty would go on to win the following three finals (1931, '32, '33) to complete a four in-a-row and stand proud at the top of the roll of honour. Indeed, Clonoulty would also play in the 1934 final, but were well beaten by Cashel. From 1933 to '39 Clonoulty sat at the top of the roll of honour (four titles) until they were joined by Cashel. In 1940 they again locked horns with Cashel, but were defeated by four points as Cashel over took from them at the top.

Where is all this going is that on Sunday Clonoulty-Rossmore have even more incentive to win as they have the chance to go back on top of the roll of honour for the first time since 1938 and overtake Cashel King Cormacs should they get the better of Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill.

The 89th Tipperary Co-Op Super Valu West Senior Hurling Championship final takes place this Sunday as Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill and Clonoulty-Rossmore lock horns at 3pm in Cappawhite.

It will be just the seventh meeting of the sides in the final (Clonoulty did beat a Donohill-Cappa combination in the 1932 and '33 deciders). The record stands at four to two in Clonoulty-Rossmore’s favour.

Éire Óg will be playing in their 26th final, their sixth in the last seven years as they look to regain the O’Dwyer Cup which they held for three years in succession from 2013 to 2015. They will be looking for title number 12 in their own right while they have also two titles joined with Golden-Kilfeacle (2004) and Cappawhite (1961).

Clonoulty-Rossmore will be playing in their 33rd final and looking for title number 19 as they seek to retain the O’Dwyer Cup for the third year in succession.

From a form guide point of view this is not an easy final to predict. Normally both sides would have a few county games as well as games in the West championship played to give some insight, but this year they have just one game each played in the county championship.

Briefly going back to last year’s final, it could be broken into two parts - what could have happened and what actually happened. What could have happened: Clonoulty-Rossmore could have been out of sight in the opening ten minutes had they taken their chances. What happened: Éire Óg stuck with Clonoulty-Rossmore until the introduction of Timmy Hammersley who helped turn the game in the Clonoulty men’s favour.

Who will be the happier going into this game?

Clonoulty-Rossmore were in a comfortable position when leading by five points at half time against Mullinahone and nine mid-way through the half, but they failed to build further on this and allowed Mullinahone back into the game somewhat, winning by six. The lead was down to four with three minutes to go, but Clonoulty-Rossmore rallied. They did score 1-10 of 1-14 from play in poor conditions and limited Mullinahone to four points from play.

Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill on the other hand were eight points down mid-way through the first half, but Éire Óg, as so often in the past, fought back to defeat Killenaule by two points while limiting Killenaule to just a single point from play in the second half. Éire Óg also hit the last five points of the game.

On paper Clonoulty-Rossmore look very strong. They have a very strong spine with Ronan Heffernan at full-back who takes over the mantle from John Devane. John O’Keeffe is at centre-back while they have Conor Hammersley and Michael Ryan (W) at midfield. Dillon Quirke is stationed at centre-forward while Timmy Hammersley is at full.

Their half-forward line also includes John O’Neill and Sean Maher, both capable of getting scores. Cathal Bourke has made the step up to senior adding two points the last day out and joins Timmy Hammersley and Fiachra O’Keeffe in the full-forward line, with all three scoring the last day out.

From eight to 15 the last day out seven of Clonoulty-Rossmore’s players got on the scoreboard.

Their defence is very strong with Ronan Heffernan flanked by the experienced Joey O’Keeffe and James Ryan while John O’Keeffe is flanked by Enda Heffernan and Ciaran Quirke.

Éire Óg changed things around the last day out when things weren’t going well, moving Tom Fox to full-back to curb the threat of Kieran Bergin. Brian Fox then acted as sweeper.

Darragh Mooney will bring his inter-county experience to bear on this final and his ability to add points from long-range frees will add to Éire Óg’s chances.

Michael Bradshaw, along with Eoin Bradshaw and Diarmuid Ryan, formed the full back line the last day out while Stephen O’Brien, Padraig O’Dwyer and Tom Fox formed the half-back line. Their midfield adds huge experience and versatility in Brian Fox and Ronan O’Brien.

Conor O’Brien moves into the half-forward line, but Éire Óg have the option of moving him to midfield. Dinny Crosse returns to the panel this year and he had further experience also at the far side in Donal O’Dwyer. At corner-forward Sean Ryan will provide pace as well as his ability to add points from placed balls. Eoin Kennedy has returned to the team and the former full-back is now at full-forward, with Kevin Fox placed in the other corner.

Éire Óg do look stronger than last year, but only time will tell. Most teams would be happy with their lot - three West titles - but this Éire Óg team doesn’t believe in giving up.

It will be interesting to see if Éire Óg use a sweeper again. A sweeper though uses a lot of energy and forwards will have to work hard although that is Éire Óg’s mantra. They would have to keep the sliotar away from the centre in this regard and in particular John O’Keeffe.

While both sides have had victories in the county championship the added bonus of a win in this year’s West final guarantees a place in the knock-out stages of the county senior hurling championship. Talk of the number of West titles aside and the roll of honour this is the big prize. It takes the pressure off in their respective remaining group games, for either side.

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