Munster Hurling Cup Semi-Final
Clare v Waterford at Cusack Park Ennis, Saturday 1.30pm
(Michael Kennedy, Tipperary)
Liam Cahill’s Waterford have been a constant in Brian Lohan’s tenure as Clare manager so far, with this Saturday’s tie being the third knock-out tie between the rivals in as many seasons.
Considering that Clare have played all five Munster Senior rivals so far in the last two seasons, the regular battles with Waterford have been memorable affairs that have seen the spoils shared evenly so far as Waterford knocked out the Banner in the last six of the 2020 All-Ireland Senior Championship, only for Clare to exact full revenge last summer in a devastating Munster opener performance.
So what to expect of Saturday’s tie? Well, as a precursor for Waterford’s final round trip to Cusack Park (May 22) for the rejuvenated Munster Senior Championship round-robin series, it’s a good means of blowing off the cobwebs for the Deise who fundamentally will want to prove themselves following their worst display under Cahill against Clare last summer.
Without their sizeable Ballygunner contingent, the fact that Cahill remained in charge despite the call of his native county Tipperary is a statement in itself of the unfulfilled potential he sees within the side.
Clare won’t fear Waterford but without the likes of Tony Kelly, Aidan McCarthy, John Conlon, David Fitzgerald, Patrick O’Connor and Colm Galvin, it will undoubtedly be a very experimental side that Brian Lohan fields on Saturday.
That’s no harm either as with Covid regularly impinging upon squad numbers, strength-in-depth could be key throughout 2022 and therefore there is a need for others to put up their hands for places.
Everyone knows what Kelly and Co. offer but competitive for places needs to improve, with exciting talents such as Mark Rodgers and Shane Meehan perfectly positioned to try and nail down regular starting berths.
Not much could or should be read into the result but with an additional competitive match ahead of the National League on the first Saturday in February at stake for the victors, Clare will be eager to commence 2022 on a winning note and advance to their first final of the decade.
by Eoin Brennan