Rathdowney-Errill head into their fourth Leinster Club SHC campaign in seven years with a fully-fit panel to pick from, as they welcome Westmeath champions Clonkill to O’Moore Park on Sunday afternoon.
Manager Frank McGrath confirmed that he has no injury concerns as he tries to mastermind a first ever win in the Leinster Club SHC for the club. They come into it as underdogs too, with Clonkill 8/15 favourites for the game after some impressive performances by Westmeath teams in recent years.
Clonkill have won their third Westmeath SHC title in four years, and will be know to Clough-Ballacolla, who they beat in the Leinster championship in 2009, 1-21 to 2-12. They came close to beating Ballyboden St Enda’s last year, and were similarly unlucky to have narrowly lost to Tullamore after beating Clough-Ballacolla in 2009.
Westmeath club hurling has certainly had more success in this competition in recent years that Laois, with Raharney beating Coolderry in 2010. Because of results like that, Frank McGrath is under no illusions about the challenge facing his team. “They have won their third championship in four years and they are a formidable outfit. I was watching the Shinty over the weekend and two of their players, Eoin Price and Brendan Murtagh, were playing prominent roles.
“They seem to have strong players in all positions, they have Andrew Mitchell at centre-back who has been a big player for Westmeath and we are expecting a big game out of Clonkill.”
McGrath isn’t about to roll over and put out the welcome mat though, and he admits he’s expecing a big performance from his team as well. There are no easy draws at this stage of the club hurling calendar, but having been drawn against Ballyhale Shamrocks and O’Loughlin Gaels in 2008 and 2010 respectively (both eventual Leinster champions), this time Rathdowney-Errill have been slightly luckier.
They will be hoping that Ross King can continue his scoring exploits in attack, while their rock-solid defence will be hoping to pick up where they left off in the county final, when they held Clough-Ballacolla to a single point, from a free, in the second half. Throw in this Sunday is down for 2.30pm.