following a couple of seasons during which a young team failed to deliver on rich promise, Clara, ended up being relegated to the intermediate grade from the senior division last year.
However, class and wounded pride would appear to be driving on Clara this season and already some strong showings have them being spoken about as possible promotion candidates, although they are, naturally, trying to play down the talk.
Clara are the league leaders in Group I of the intermediate hurling grade, and their near neighbours, Young Irelands (Gowran) are the somewhat surprise headline act in Group 2.
Same rules apply
The same rules apply in the intermediate league as in senior, with the top team in each group qualifying for the League final, and the two runners-up going into the Shield decider. The two teams at the bottom of each group face a battle against relegation.
Clara have two sticky matches to play against Southern hopefuls, Glenmore (July 15) and Mooncoin (July 21) so they will need to keep their wits about them if they are to get a shot at winning what would be their second intermediate league. They won this crown previously in 1997.
Clara are the highest point scorers - 58 points - across all divisions in the county, which is some boast. There has been a good spread registering too, including their main man, Keith Hogan, brother of county star, Brian, by the way, Liam and Lester Ryan, Ciaran Prendergast and so on.
That is a bit of a change because finishing was a very big problem for them during at least two of the four seasons they spent in the top flight.
In the other group ’Irelands are being tracked by St Lachtain’s (Freshford) and All-Ireland club junior champions, St Patrick’s (Ballyragget). They have already beaten Lachtain’s, but they will have to get over Tullogher-Rosbercon, which they should be able to do, in the next round to leave them chasing a League final place in the last round on July 20.
Story gets interesting
The story here gets most interesting, because ’Irelands are due to play St Pat’s in the last match. In between (July 15 in Lisdowney) St Pat’s play near neighbours and fierce rivals, St Lachtain’s. Now anything could happen in this game, and it would take a brave man, or a fool, to predict the outcome.
If ’Irelands can keep their own ship on course, then the others will do a bit of the sorting behind them and they could find themselves shooting for a League final place when playing the fifth round game against St Patrick’s.
’Irelands, who are managed by D.J. Carey, never won the intermediate league because they had been operating at a higher level for a good number of years after it was introduced in 1992.
Early season indications are that this could end up being a difficult year for Conahy Shamrocks, who have yet to pick up a point, and remain rooted to the bottom of Group I. There are five others clubs who might be looking over their shoulder too.