Minor Hurling Championship Final Preview

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It might have escaped the attention of many club members but on Saturday October 14th our Minor hurlers will contest the County B Championship final against Éire Óg Corra Choill in Hawkfield with a 1pm throw in. We will have 17 Clane lads involved on final day as part of an amalgamated team called Cú Chulainns and earlier this week we caught up with the Clane mentors Michael Cahalane and James Henry to see how preparations are going and to to take the opportunity to introduce you to the Cú Chulainn’s hurling team.

Tickets are now on sale on the Kildare GAA web site at https://embed.futureticketing.ie/c/kildare-gaa/ . U16s Free Entry.

So who are Cú Chulainns?

Cú Chulainns are an amalgamation of hurlers from 3 clubs, Clane, Coill Dubh and Sarsfields for the 2023 Minor Hurling season.

How did the amalgamation come about?

Heading into the Minor Hurling league at the start of the year Clane were placed in Division 1 by the CCC due to the fact that Clane had won the U16 Division 1 Hurling Championship Shield last year defeating Naas in a thrilling final with a last minute goal. However, Minor at club level is Under 18 so it is a massive step up from U16. We only have 5 players (2005) of the age in Clane plus 16 x U17 (2006) players. Under normal circumstances 21 players would be sufficient for us to enter a Clane team without an amalgamation but we lost a few key players to long term injury and a further 5 players were selected for county Minor teams at Hurling (2) and Football (3).

So we approached the county board to see if there were any clubs who had players who wanted to play Minor Hurling but couldn’t field a team. They recommended we speak to Sarsfields as they had 4 x U17 (2006) players looking to play Minor hurling including one lad who just took up hurling. The rules state that if 4 players or more are added to a squad then the teams must form an amalgamation, hence Cú Chulainns came into existence.

So how did Cú Chulainn's fare in Minor Hurling League Division 1?

Without 7 of our stronger players and with such a young team including 4 lads from Sarsfields who had only ever played hurling at Division 3 level, it was always going to be a struggle and so it proved. We won our opening match against a similar profile team Wolfe Tones (Kill/Sallins) but once we came up against the stronger teams in Celbridge, Maynooth, St. Cocas and Naas, all of whom have plenty of players of the age (18) including many of last year's Kildare Minors we struggled badly and shipped some heavy losses. It was very demoralising on the players and as a consequence we actually had 2 players who quit hurling altogether. Even with the 5 county minor players returning to club duty (2 of whom were injured and out for 6 weeks) and with a thread bare squad we were in no position to head into a Minor Hurling Championship and needed to come up with an alternative plan.

Tell us about the plan and why you ended up with a 3rd team in the amalgamation..

We held a meeting with some of the more senior players from our squad and they requested we speak with Coill Dubh with a view to expanding the amalgamation to them. There are a lot of synergies with Coill Dubh; a lot of the lads play hurling together in Scoil Mhuire and like ourselves they have a very young team with only 2 players of the age (2005). They also suffered some heavy losses in Division 2 to teams like Ardclough, Leixlip and Éire Óg Corra Choill. Coill Dubh were very open to the amalgamation so we approached the CCC seeking their permission to form a 3 team amalgamation for the Minor Hurling Championship which they approved. Given we have such a young panel with only 7 players of the age and we still had quite a few injured players unavailable we requested to be entered in the Minor B championship which was also approved.

How have things gone to date? Obviously not too bad given ye’re in a county final…..

Things have gone very well thankfully. With a squad of almost 30 players (inc. 17 lads from Clane) plus 5 mentors we were able to hold quality training sessions which drove the lads on and brought great momentum to the squad rebuilding morale amongst the group. From a pure hurling development perspective which has to be the primary objective, it has been a massive success. We have players getting the opportunity to play a very good standard of hurling against quality opposition in the other Division 2 teams - Ardclough (League Winners), Éire Óg CC (League Finalists), Moorefield and Leixlip as well as other challenge matches we organised. Basically lads have lots of opportunity to play hurling between training and matches.

As regards results, we played 2 competitive matches against an experienced Ardclough team who were coming off winning the Division 2 spring league where they beat Éire Óg Corra Choill in a cracking final. Those 2 matches were in the summer mini-league back in June and later in the championship itself in August, in which we managed to come out on the right side on both occasions by just a few scores. We put in a great performance away to Moorefield before losing out to a very strong Éire Óg Corra Choill team in Conneff Park. That left us with a tricky away match to Leixlip which we had to win to ensure we reached the final. Played in terrible conditions we were only 4 points up at half time in a very even contest with Leixlip adapting much better to the conditions and hurling very well. We were forced to make some substitutions and some positional changes at half time which resulted in a better 2nd half performance to claim the crucial win. With Éire Óg Corra Choill overcoming Ardclough on the same day this ensured we would set up a rematch with Éire Óg Corra Choill in the final.

Did you experience any challenges with the amalgamation?

One of the challenges with managing a big squad is getting everyone sufficient game time. With a limit of 5 subs per match it’s inevitable that lads will be disappointed when they don’t get on. We had planned to hold lots of challenge matches to ensure the squad players got lots of chances to play but trying to organise challenge matches has been extremely difficult. We were unfortunately let down on many occasions through no real fault of the opposition. Fixture congestion was a major problem and if teams are out of their championship they have little appetite to play a challenge match. Nevertheless with good numbers at training and the odd challenge match lads got the chance to put themselves in the frame for final squad selection.

Who’s the Captain?

We have joint captains. Danny Malone from Clane and Keenan Brereton from Coill Dubh.

Who are the mentors?

We have Michael Cahalane and James Henry from Clane, Noel Brereton and Andrew Bagnall from Coill Dubh and John Gaine from Sarsfields.

How are you fixed for the final?

We’re really looking forward to the final which takes place in Hawkfield on Saturday, October 14th against Éire Óg Corra Choill on Pitch 1 with a 1pm throw-in. We hope to have up to 17 Clane lads involved, injuries permitting and it should be a great occasion with some top class hurling on show. We lost out to Éire Óg Corra Choill by 2 points in a very evenly contested group stage fixture earlier in the campaign and the final promises to be another close match. All support will be really appreciated and could very well be the deciding factor; we’ll need it all against a very strong opposition in Éire Óg Corra Choill.

If we prevail it will be the 4th consecutive year that these group of Clane hurlers will have delivered silverware to the club having previously won the U14 D2 Hurling League in 2020, the U16 D2 Hurling League in 2021, the U16 D1 Hurling Championship Shield in 2022. They deserve the support of our club members and we hope to see a big Clane crowd in Hawkfield on October 14th. Check out https://liinks.co/clanegaa where we will post the ticket links when available.

Clane squad members include Danny Malone (Captain), Hugh Muldoon, Culann Healy, Ethan Smith, Liam Dagg, Daragh Mullahy, Diarmuid Finn, Ben O'Dea, Paddy Connolly, Thomas Kilbride, Harry Reid, Shane Henry, Daniel Colbert, TJ Dillon, Adam Fitzpatrick, Riann O'Neill, James O'Donoghue, Daire O'Beirne, Tadhg O'Donoghue and Conor Tighe.

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