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Fitzgerald's Clare looking to avoid an unwanted place in history

Published 12/07/2014 | 02:30

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald will be anxious to avoid the humiliation of seeing his side have their All-Ireland defence brought to a premature end against Wexford today. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald will be anxious to avoid the humiliation of seeing his side have their All-Ireland defence brought to a premature end against Wexford today. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Having survived the tightest of calls against Wexford a week ago, Clare hurlers will be doubly determined to avoid the unwelcome distinction of becoming the first All-Ireland champions to have their title defence cut off by mid-July since the back-door format was opened in 1997.

They replay today against a rejuvenated Wexford, who came so close to eliminating the champions last Saturday.

Wexford's confidence got another boost on Wednesday when their U-21s retained the Leinster title, a success that's likely to add to the crowd at Wexford Park for the 5.00pm throw-in.

The game will be shown live on RTE, after which Sky Sports takes over at 7.0 for the Tipperary v Offaly All-Ireland qualifier in Portlaoise.

RTE have a big double offering tomorrow when Mayo play Galway in the Connacht football final in Castlebar (2.00pm) and Cork host Limerick in the Munster hurling final in Pairc Ui Chaoimh (4.00pm).

It will be a nostalgic occasion on Leeside for Pairc Ui Chaoimh's last big game, prior to undergoing major redevelopment.

The crowd will be restricted to a maximum of 36,646, down 6,000 on the attendance at last year's final between the same counties in the Gaelic Grounds.

Limerick are bidding to retain the title for the first time since 1981, while Cork's last provincial success was in 2006.

Mayo are pursuing a fourth successive Connacht crown for the first time in 63 years against Galway, who haven't won the title since 2008.

The Tribesmen have lost to Mayo three times since then, with the heaviest defeat coming last year when they were beaten by 17 points in Pearse Stadium.

Their last championship victory over Mayo was in the 2008 Connacht final.

Six counties will exit the All-Ireland football championship this weekend following qualifier games, which feature Sligo v Limerick (4.00pm), Laois v Tipperary (4.45pm), Cavan v Roscommon (6.00pm) today and Down v Kildare (2.00pm), Carlow v Clare (2.00pm), and Tyrone v Armagh (3.00pm) tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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