Clara and Clonbullogue bid for Leinster titles

From the start of this year’s Leinster intermediate club championship campaign, Trim looked like the side that were going to take all the beating.

Sure enough, they’ve cruised into this decider without anyone laying a hand on them, and arguably put in their best performance of the year in the second half of their semi-final with Crossabeg-Ballymurn of Wexford, where they outscored their opponents by 0-11 to 0-1 from the 27th minute of the game onwards.

Wexford clubs have been dreadful in the Leinster senior club championship, and Shelmaliers became the first team from the county to reach a semi-final since 2004 this year. However, the standard of football across the county is even, and their intermediate winners tend to be decent. For Trim to account for them so comfortably would suggest that Kevin Reilly’s side are in good shape.

That being said, it’s no secret in Offaly football circles that this Clara team are a cut above what would be the usual standard of Senior ‘B’ winners in the county.

The Magpies' relegation was a shock to everyone but in hindsight, it was simply part of a transformative process that the club had to undergo as they shifted towards a new generation of player.

They still have several senior veterans on board to guide them through these games, albeit it looks like Thomas Deehan is unlikely to ever return to this standard of football following his recent kidney operation, and they have some really bright prospects that look ready to drive the club back towards competitiveness at senior level.

They’re facing into a very tough challenge this week, but the prize on offer is huge. A Leinster title is there to be won, and with Connacht opposition lined up for the semi-final stages, whoever prevails out of the contest in Páirc Tailteann tomorrow (Sunday, thrown-in 1pm) will go in as favourites against either Connemara outfit Naomh Anna or St Faithleach’s of Roscommon.

Clara are outsiders, but only slightly so, and have every chance.

Clonbullogue, on the other hand, have been installed as slight favourites for their contest with Kilcullen, even though they have to travel to Newbridge for their provincial final today (Saturday), throw-in 1pm.

It’s remarkable to think that when we got to the semi-final stage of the Offaly intermediate championship, Clonbullogue would have been considered outsiders of the four.

Yet they’ve kicked on in leaps and bounds since then, getting better with every game, and while this contest represents a huge step up in class, the quality of the Clonbullogue attack is of a level high enough to suggest that they can break Offaly’s record of four lost finals in a row at this grade.

- Kevin Egan