Loughrea are back in the county final again this year and on Sunday at 2.30pm in Pearse Stadium they take on Clarinbridge in a highly anticipated clash.
Having disposed of Portumna in the semi-final, and having been battle hardened by a few county final defeats with one success in 2006, the Town team are tipped by many to collect the 2010 title.
They are 4/6 with the bookies to win the club’s third title, and Michael Donoghue’s Clarinbridge are 6/4 to triumph. The draw is 8/1.
Donoghue was the team captain in 2001 when Clarinbridge surprised Athenry and had a historic 0-18 to 2-11 win in the county final in Duggan Park.
He would love if those jubilant scenes could be recreated this weekend, but he is taking nothing for granted, knowing his side will have to produce a gigantic performance to see off Loughrea.
“They are a very experienced side with some terrific hurlers, so we know that we have a big job in hand. They have been around the block in the past few years and they will be driven on by their defeat in last year’s final.
“We are focusing exclusively on our own panel and hoping to get a top-class display on Sunday. It is all to play for and we believe that if we play to the best of our ability, we will be there or thereabouts.”
Clarinbridge will look to big displays from some of their own experienced players, with Alan and Mark Kerins and Liam Donoghue having shown good form in the last few months. David and Eoin Forde have also caught the eye and have been integral to their recent wins, which have come on the back of impressive scorelines, such as the 2-16 win over Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry, 2-19 against Tommy Larkins, and 2-15 in their win over St Thomas.
“Some of our more experienced players have been doing well, but we need everyone who sees action on Sunday making a big contribution. We will be announcing our team on Thursday night and there will be some lads disappointed not to be starting, but often it is a player who comes on that makes all the difference and we will need a full squad effort if we are to get a win. It is great for the village and the area to be back in a county final, but obviously a win would make it all the sweeter.”
Loughrea are very strong down the middle with Damien McClearn, Nigel Shaughnessy, Gavin Keary, Johnny Maher and Johnny O’Loughlin.
The addition of youngsters, free taker Neil Keary who shot 0-11 in the replay over Portumna, and Paul Hoban, Johnny Coen and Emmet Mahony, has helped revitalise and improve the side.
They will be desperately keen to collect another title to add to their 2006 success and they will feel the least they deserve for a decade of graft and regular county final appearances is another title.
This week’s weather forecast is for wind and rain and, if the weekend continues in that vein, it is difficult to look past the Loughrea men finding the resolve to eke out a victory.
*The senior final will be preceded by the county minor A final at 12.30pm between Gort and Athenry.