Monaleen remain on course to retain title

THREE weeks ago in Rathkeale’s Mick Neville Park, the Monaleen players, management and officials waited patiently on the field.

THREE weeks ago in Rathkeale’s Mick Neville Park, the Monaleen players, management and officials waited patiently on the field.

Mike Meade’s final whistle had signalled a draw between themselves and Fr Caseys in the final game of the group stages.

Content, rather than happy, Fr Caseys made their way to the dressing room with a semi-final to prepare for.

But champions Monaleen were staring elimination in the face until a phonecall from Bruff confirmed Galbally had defeated Adare and thrown a lifeline to the Castletroy men.

Briefly they celebrated like they had last October when they claimed their fourth county title.

Then manager Micheal McDermott addressed his troops and as they made their way from the field it was clear they were once again ready to make the most of their second chance.

That group game between Saturday’s two semi-finalists was ruined by a strong wind - Monaleen ‘won’ the first half, 7-2 and Fr Caseys the second half, 8-3.

What was clear is that both have forwards that can win games and squads capable of claiming ultimate honours.

Just like last season Monaleen appear to be coming good at the right time and now have a nice shape to their line-up and in their quarter-final game their substitutes bench included Fergus Melody, Seamus Hickey, Pat Keating, Padraig Quinn and Alan Kiston, amongst others.

Along the sideline, Clare senior football manager Micheal McDermott constantly stresses the need for his players to work harder across the field.

On the day that all players buy into his work ethic and all forwards hit form, one feels there would be no stopping the city side.

All six forwards scored from play last weekend but the inside line of attack of Ger Collins, Mike Crowley and Muiris Gavin are the real dangermen.

But at the other end of the field, Fr Caseys are also dangerous.

Donagh Kelly is clearly their main man and Monaleen would do well to fill all space infront of him if he continues to line out at full forward.

Others like David Ward and Tom Collins could have to step forward if the Kelly tactic is nullified by Barry Fitzpatrick and Richie Murray.

It appears that Buggy Fitzgerald, Seamus McNamara and John Lenihan are still searching for a winning formula with much young talent available.

Although they were county finalists just two season ago, they faced into this 2011 championship without central players like Padraig Browne, Michael Galvin, Eoin Joy and others.

But still they have options and both Derry O’Connor and James Riordan were impressive subs against Monaleen last time out.

Bit by bit as the season progressed, including an All-County League success, they have moulded a new-look side with Limerick senior footballer John Riordan impressive at centre back.

It’s very simplistic but Saturday could very well come down to hunger.

Over the last three seasons clashes between the Abbeyfeale and City men have never been won by more than a score and Saturday shouldn’t be any different.

Across the field, Monaleen may just have greater experience and it could be enough to continue their reign as champions until at least October 16 when the Gaelic Grounds hosts the county final.

Story so far: The Abbeyfeale men went unbeaten as they topped their group with three wins and two draws. Monaleen won only two games, along with a draw and two defeats in the group stages before beating Ballylanders in the quarter-final.

Key battle: Both sides are blessed with some of the best attacking talent in the county but neither have dominant midfield pairings. Who ever can get on the forward foot from the middle third will prosper.

Did you know? Monaleen defender Richie Murray was full back on the John O’Mahony managed Galway side that won the 2002 All-Ireland U-21 football championship.

When they last met: On Saturday September 3 in Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale is finished 0-10 each.

Verdict: Monaleen