Whatever the outcome of this Sunday’s Intermediate Hurling Championship final between Killanena and Ruan, there is sure to be a great atmosphere at Cusack Park for the eagerly awaited clash.
Killanena have never won this title while one has to go back to 1978 for Ruan’s last appearance in the final. On that occasion, they beat Clonlara and in the process, held the South-East Clare club scoreless. They returned to senior ranks and contested the senior final in 1988 when they lost to Feakle. A few years later, they dropped back down to intermediate where they have been competing since the early ’90s.
Emigration has hit both parishes hard over the years and it would appear that it is beginning to take its toll again.
“There are a number of players in our squad this year that are out of work but they answered our call and agreed to remain at home to help us have another crack at winning this title. Whatever the outcome of the final, it would appear that some will have to emigrate in an effort to find work. This is something John O’Donnell had to do and he is now in Australia,” explained Killanena manager Colman Houlihan this week.
Speaking after their semi-final win over Clarecastle, Ruan boss Pat Meaney said, “We have been honouring past teams and past players in recent times and they were all deserving of the honours they received but it is time for a present-day team to be honoured now. There is huge interest in hurling in the parish, which has had more than its share of tragedies over the past half dozen years. This is a very young side and they have come through thanks to the work being done by Cyril Lyons at school level, and by the likes of Flan Lyons, Gearóid Roughan and Kevin McDonnell, all great hurlers with the club in the past at juvenile level.”
The Ruan boss, whose backroom team includes Jimmy Courtney, Cyril Lyons and Mike Daffy, noted that Crusheen is situated between Ruan and Killanena and all three parishes are involved in hurling finals this week.
East Clare side Killanena have been knocked out of this championship in each of the last four years by the eventual winners. They lost to Clooney-Quin in the 2006 final and to Clonlara in the decider a year later. In 2008 they went out at the semi-final stage to Broadford who went on to win the title, while last year they were also stopped at the semi-final stage, this time by Whitegate who won the title. Back in the ’ 80s they lost finals to Scariff and Wolfe Tones.
Team boss Houlihan is joined by David McNamara (trainer), Martin Smith and Joe Moloney in the backroom team while, in recent weeks, Davy Fitzgerald and Louis Mulqueen have been assisting with the preparations. Incidentally, Mulqueen trained Killanena in 2006 before David Forde took over for the next two years with Fergie Tuohy then taking charge last year.
Jimmy Collins was manager for three years, 2006, 2007 and 2008 before Colman Houlihan took over as manager last year when he was assisted by Fergie Tuohy and Michael Moroney.
“Clooney-Quin beat us in 2006 and they had been knocking on the door for a while. Losing a year later to Clonlara was particularly heartbreaking because we held a six point lead in that game. That defeat was a huge blow,” admitted Houlihan.
Both sides have some injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s final. Ruan centre back Jonathon Clohessy suffered a leg injury in the first half of their semi-final win over Clarecastle and he remains a doubtful starter for the final. “He is receiving treatment for the injury and it’s touch and go as to whether or not he will be ready. Otherwise we have a full squad from which to select our team,” according to Ruan boss Meaney.
The team is captained by goalie Pakie Roughan and will include Killian Ryan, Michael Vaughan, John Punch, Niall O’Connor and Dara Roughan who has been outstanding throughout the campaign
Killanena followers expect that Enda Collins will play some part in the game. A key member of the side in recent years, he missed all of this season due to injury until making an appearance during their quarter final win over Éire Óg. Collins was again introduced during their semi-final victory over Sixmilebridge.
The team is captained by inter-county man Mark Flaherty who will be joined by his brother Ronan, the Noone brothers, David, Barry, Pat and Michael, and the McNamara brothers, Brian, Liam and Gerry while others in their line up will be Alan McNamara, John O’Meara and Noel Sheedy.
The sides last met on May 1 in Division 2B of the Clare Champion cup and, on that occasion, Ruan were winners of the high-scoring tie, 5-11 to 3-13.
Their paths to Sunday’s final suggest that they are evenly matched. Cyril Lyons is a highly respected coach who has done a lot of work in bringing Ruan to the stage they are at while the presence of both Davy Fitzgerald and Louis Mulqueen with Killanena means that they also have the benefit of two experienced sideline officials.
It has all the ingredients of a cracking game and there should be little between the teams at the end of play. The winners will be back in action seven days later as they take on their Tipperary counterparts in the Munster championship. Opinions are divided as to who will be entertaining the Tipperary champions but the experience gained by Killanena over the past four years might just see them ahead at the final whistle.