Eoin Brennan previews this afternoon’s Munster Senior Hurling Championship Round 2 between Clare and Tipperary at FBD Semple Stadium Thurles
JUST as Tipperary’s sense of injustice motivated an uprising against recently crowned National League champions Waterford last weekend, Clare will be targeting a similar assault this Sunday as they look to hit the ground running in this year’s provincial championship.
With both sides justifiably irked at being largely discounted in the conversation for the top three in Munster, Tipperary’s backlash landed but ultimately failed to knock down their opponents which leaves them with no room for error as they scramble for points this Sunday.
Being Clare’s competitive bow, they obviously have a little more wriggle room but realistically if the Banner are to make an impression in the provincial series, a win is almost a prerequisite in Thurles.
Easier said than done, after Clare took 90 years to previously make that breakthrough back in 2018 on their way to knocking out their hosts and getting to within touching distance of an All-Ireland Final.
However, while that was only four years ago, only half the personnel on both sides are still available as the neighbours have experienced much more turnover than the majority of their provincial rivals.
Indeed, the loss of the Mahers, Padraic and Brendan, Seamus Callanan and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer has left a difficult void for Tipperary to fill as that quartet’s championship experience alone is almost equal to Clare’s entire team.
A lot has been made of Tipperary’s new crop including Conor Bowe, Craig Morgan, Dillon Quirke and James Quigley but Clare are equally inexperienced.
From the 28 players used in this year’s National League, two are out through long term injuries (David Reidy and Mark Rodgers) as is Aidan McCarthy while two others will miss the Tipperary game in Mike Gough (hamstring) and Aron Shanagher (ankle). Of the 24 remaining players, eight are either awaiting their senior debut or have never start a championship match.
That leaves only 16 with genuine championship experience but they do have bolters in Peter Duggan who hasn’t played for Clare at championship level since 2019 while it’s almost 16 months since Shane O’Donnell’s last championship fare.
Both will be required if Clare are to get over the line as will Clare’s two most experienced championship performers Tony Kelly and John Conlon.
Considering the casualty list that greeted Brian Lohan at the beginning of the National League, Clare are still far from full strength but do possess the strongest squad they’ve had so far in 2022. And as they brace themselves for battle, that’s a positive first step ahead of two successive and potentially decisive Sundays in Thurles.