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Banner boys to raise shout

Previews: Clare v Waterford and Laois v Carlow

CLARE v WATERFORD, MUNSTER SHC Q-FINAL

(Thurles, Tomorrow 4.0 live RTé2)

FOR all the noise about Clare as possible Munster champions and regaining the lost ground of the past decade, they still need to establish and sustain superiority over the local movers and shakers.

The sheer youth of the Clare team last year under Davy Fitzgerald gave much cause for optimism but defeats to Waterford and Limerick in the Championship were harsh reminders that hurling wont stand still while they kick on.

Against that, another All-Ireland U21 win last year – their second in three seasons – has pushed through another cluster of promising, successful players and it is no surprise that Fitzgerald is investing so heavily in their development this year.

All of eight of that team start tomorrow in Thurles and compared to last year, they have a more rounded look. They have also experienced a spring of Division 1A hurling and lived to tell the tale and their extra-time win over Cork in the relegation decider should, on the face of it, stand as a positive experience.

Waterford have undergone much change also from the side that beat the Banner 2-17 to 1-18 last June, although little of the upheaval is by Michael Ryan's choice. Only five of last year's starting 15 will begin with the likes of John Mullane, Stephen Molumphy, Philip Mahony and Shane Walsh all missing through various reasons from retirement, to work-related absence to injury.

It ranks as something of an oddity that Clare haven't won in Munster since beating Waterford back in 2008 but they look better equipped now with so many successful youngsters and a season of experience under Davy Fitz than they have at any time in the interim to end that particular run.

ODDS: Clare 4/7, Draw 10/1, Waterford 7/4

VERDICT: Clare

 

LAOIS AIM 'LOW

Clare v Waterford and Laois v Carlow, LEINSTER SHC Q-FINAL

(Portlaoise, Tomorrow 3.0)

THE 'prize' may be a difficult afternoon in Galway's company but for Laois, a second win over a similarly ranked county would be another milestone in their progress under Séamus Plunkett.

Already, his first trick as boss has been the re-affiliation of most of the Laois' best hurlers and it paid big and impressive dividends when they beat Antrim by six points a fortnight ago. Five of his starting forwards scored all 1-16 of Laois' tally and the performance of Zane Keenan (0-5, 0-1pen) was undoubtedly the highlight. Carlow played in a higher Division this year and scared Offaly and Limerick along the way but with home advantage and momentum, Laois should squeeze it.

ODDS: Laois 1/3, Draw 10/1, Carlow 11/4

VERDICT: Laois

- CONOR McKEON


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