Munster Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final (Extra-Time if Necessary)
Clare v Tipperary at LIT Gaelic Grounds Limerick, Sunday 3.45pm
(James Owens, Wexford)
Strange at may seem, Clare’s faltering finish wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened on Sunday.
If Clare had pummelled Waterford by 15 points which wouldn’t have been unjustified, it would have perhaps given Clare a false air of invincibility and certainly would have alerted Tipperary as to the strength of the challenge that faced them.
However, Clare’s 22 wides have given Brian Lohan and Co. plenty to keep their side working on while also allowing Tipperary to view the quarter-final as a battle of two underperforming sides.
It’s difficult to know if momentum from last Sunday can override any fatigue as it was a bruising high paced encounter. Having a match under their belts should be beneficial against a Tipperary side that are stepping into the unknown really after a mixed league.
The most common critique of the Premier County is that not enough of their back-to-back All-Ireland Under 21/20 title winning players from 2018 and ’19 have been assimilated into the team as only Jake Morris and Paddy Cadell have been regulars on Liam Sheedy’s side. However, perhaps that’s indicative that the majority of those players aren’t ready to make the step up yet as the old guard continue to hold their places.
Tipperary’s ageing spine have been written off quite a few times in recent years as past their best but the likes of inspirational players such as Padraic Maher, Seamus Callanan, Noel McGrath, Brendan Maher and John O’Dwyer have continued to defy the critics with All-ireland crowns in 2010, ’16 and ’19.
With Waterford generally expected to prevail last Sunday, Tipperary might not have overly concentrated on Clare.
Consequently, backed by the confidence of a first championship win and a four match winning streak overall since kickstarting their season against Laois six weeks ago, Clare could upset the odds once more this Sunday.
For that to materialise, honing their decision-making and shooting radar is a given while a similarly miserly defence efforts is required as Tipperary will look to lay down an early marker with goals just as they did to timely effect in the sides’ last championship clash in 2019.
That 13 point reverse, particularly in fortress Cusack Park cut deep and should be used as a motivational tool to secure a first Munster Final appearance in 13 years.
by Eoin Brennan