Clare v Cork at Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday 1.45pm (Derek O’Mahoney, Tipperary)
An unprecedented start of back-to-back opening victories have placed Clare on the verge of the Division 2 Semi-Finals. With a foot and a half in the knock-out stages, it would have to take an extraordinary series of results to deny Colm Collins’ men from facing either Meath or Mayo in the last four.
However, if Division 2 has taught us anything over the past five seasons, it’s to expect the unexpected and therefore Clare will need to maintain their current impetus against Munster rivals Cork who crave victory equally as much.
With all four teams involved in either promotion or relegation play-offs after this weekend’s final round, the Rebels are most in danger of becoming embroiled in the nervy demotion series that would halt their rebuilding process.
After all, following recent All-Ireland Minor and Under 20 titles, last year’s Munster Senior Final appearance after dethroning kingpins Kerry along with an immediate return to Division 2, Cork will be determined to preserve that upward momentum by overcoming their hosts this Sunday.
Cork have dominated their championship clashes but having not met in the provincial series since 2015, in the intervening period, three successive National League victories have provided Clare with the recent upper hand.
A win or draw against Cork would be sufficient for Clare to top Division 2 South and face the loser of Mayo and Meath in the semi-finals.
If Clare lose and Laois manage to lower neighbours Kildare, then Cork top the group and Clare go through to the semi-finals as runners-up on the head-to-head.
If Clare lose and Kildare win against Laois, then it comes down to score difference between Clare, Cork and Kildare for the two penultimate stage spots as all three teams would finish on four points. Currently, that stands at Clare +10, Cork +4 and Kildare +1.
by Eoin Brennan