Despite knocking out Wexford in three of the last four All-Ireland Senior campaigns, there is unlikely to be any shred of complacency on Clare’s part this afternoon.
While Clare have had the Indian sign over Wexford in recent seasons, it was largely due to Wexford’s predictability along with the fact that the Leinster side repeatedly failed to curb Tony Kelly’s influence in any great way.
It’s no coincidence that the back-to-back All-Star has been most prolific against Limerick and Wexford as they choose to zonally mark rather than employ a specific man-marker.
Kelly has raided for an average of 15 points in his three championship outings against Limerick who by holding their positions, are able to snuff out most other Clare threats.
Kelly’s average record against Wexford is slightly less at 0-11 in three outings since 2018 but what Darragh Egan does to counteract that could well be critical to the outcome.
The conundrum for opposition managers is that by focusing on Kelly, it allows the likes of Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan the extra space to pick holes and prosper so it will be interesting to see Wexford’s tactical approach.
Rory Hayes’ reprieve loss will certainly be a boost as with Rory O’Connor blazing a trail in 2022, the Wolfe Tones defender will likely be earmarked to shadow Wexford’s talismanic forward.
Conor Cleary should pick up Conor McDonald while Lee Chin will also need to be watched if Clare are to emerge unscathed from their first All-Ireland test.
The 2019 Leinster champions’ form has been at best unpredictable, having drawn with Galway, lost to Dublin, hammered Laois, drawn with Westmeath before beating eventual Leinster champions Kilkenny in the final outing so it’s difficult to know what Wexford will emerge in Semple Stadium on Saturday.
Clare meanwhile have answered every question asked of them so far and while extra-time ultimately proved a step too far against perennial champions Limerick, it’s pivotal that they can maintain their challenge into the All-Ireland series. That means getting over the line by whatever means on Saturday.
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final (Extra-Time if Necessary)
Clare v Wexford at FBD Semple Stadium Thurles, Saturday 3.45pm (Colm Lyons, Cork)