Clare and Tipperary renew rivalries once more this weekend in the Munster Ladies Intermediate Football championship.
These sides have clashed regularly in the past number of seasons, but 2018 saw them operate at opposite ends of the championship spectrum. The Premier spent a season as a senior outfit, but found life in the top tier difficult. It saw them relegated back down to intermediate for the coming season, and the first of a potential hat-trick of showdowns against their neighbours comes this Saturday at Sean Treacy Park in Tipperary Town.
It could be something of a damp squib, with Tipperary’s crushing victory over Limerick a fortnight ago all but assuring them of a place in the decider, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s showdown. For Clare’s part, they know they must face Limerick in the final round robin game where victory there would see them through. Given that the Banner hammered the Shannonsiders in last year’s de facto final, it is hard to see any other outcome when they meet again.
Clare are also set to be without a number of key players for Saturday’s game, with a number of the panel currently focusing on the upcoming Leaving Cert examinations. It is also understood that there are fitness doubts surrounding a couple of the more experienced players, and given the nature of the contest it is likely they will not be risked.
It is Clare’s first outing since their National League campaign, and with Tipperary in the senior ranks last year, it meant the provincial series was decided in a one off contest between Clare and Limerick, with Limerick effectively catapulted into the tie despite the fact they were operating at junior level. Clare boss James Murrihy feels having extra games prior to the All-Ireland series this year will allow them to build the strength of the panel.
“We had 14 weeks of a break to the provincials last year. We finished our leagues this time in early April and now six weeks later we are back in business again. It is something new for me as the manager to deal with in that you don’t have that same time-frame. We had girls doing the Leaving Cert last year and we were able to manage that better. We will still have that this year and it means we won’t have them in June. The main thing we want to see during the Munster championship is how we can build the depth of the panel. Once the All-Ireland series comes around, you could end up playing five or six games in a seven or eight week period so you are not going to get through that kind of schedule without a strong panel. This is our opportunity now to make sure we have that kind of strength across the panel ahead of that” he noted.
With Clare and Tipperary likely to be meeting at the business end of the season later in the summer, Saturday’s game could turn out to be all about the mind games in terms of holding some aces in reserve. Murrihy knows despite all that, it is still going to be a massive challenge.
“Tipperary are after coming down from senior and while they would have lost three or four games to get relegated, they were very unlucky in some of them. They led Cavan by nine points at one stage and ended up losing and now find themselves down intermediate so they are going to want to go all out to get back up again. From our point of view, we have played a challenge game since the league ended and we have also been trying to manage college exams. We would have a good cohort of our group tied up with those so we were conscious of that too. At the moment, I am happy with what we are doing and where we are going ahead of the weekend” he said.
Clare and Tipperary meet in Sean Treacy Park in Tipperary Town on Saturday with a 2pm throw-in.