Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 3
Laois v Clare at MW Hire O’Moore Park Portlaoise, Sunday 3pm (Patrick Murphy, Carlow)
With Clare being one of only three teams yet to register a point in Division 1 alongside Laois and Westmeath, the relegation trapdoor candidates will become a lot clearer following this Sunday’s showdown in Portlaoise.
In reality, Clare should have won their opening two ties and have the potential to also beat their remaining trio of opponents in Laois, Dublin and Kilkenny. However, even in terms of kickstarting their season and rebuilding confidence ahead of the start of the championship in five weeks time, a victory this Sunday is just what the doctor ordered.
One thing’s for sure, Brian Lohan and his management team are certainly finding out a lot about their players after two soul searching defeats but there are still plenty of positional and personnel boxes to be ticked on the Banner’s pre-championship checklist.
Injuries to key players haven’t helped but the carrot for fringe players is that an impressive run over the next three matches could well nail down a championship place.
While Clare’s record against Laois is healthy, the inevitable impact of returning manager Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett is still yet to be felt. And after running Clare perilously close in last year’s All-Ireland Championship Qualifiers (in a eerily similar pattern to Clare’s most recent outing against Wexford thanks to a red card), the hosts will be eying up this tie as a real opportunity to ease any relegation woes.
Laois still have a six pointer against Antrim to come but considering Clare’s current fragility after two successive losses, they will inevitably throw everything at their visitors on Sunday.
Knowing what to expect from their hosts, it’s essentially up to Clare to finally put a 70 minute display together. And with performances and match sharpness improving, it’s time to finally deliver a first win.
By Eoin Brennan