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Banner have cutting edge to sink McGrath's Déise


(Cusack Pk, Tomorrow 2.0, deferred TG4)

A MONTH ago, so we were told, All-Ireland champions Clare were facing into a relegation battle. The purveyor of this bold prediction? Their own manager, Davy Fitzgerald.

The would-be strugglers aren't doing half-badly, are they? You couldn't say they've been uniformly brilliant, but to accumulate four points from three games in a fiercely contested division makes for impressive reading, especially now that they finish with two home games on the spin.

Moreover, the manner in which they bounced back from the reality check of Parnell Park – slotting four goals past Tipperary in a seven-point victory – suggests any post-All-Ireland hangovers have been banished.

Remember, of the nine matches played in Division 1A so far, this was the only away win. Moreover, it came barely a month after losing to the same rivals by 14 points in the Waterford Crystal Cup final.

Conor McGrath led the Semple Stadium onslaught with 3-1, ably abetted by John Conlon's 1-3. But here's the rub: Tipp have been leaking like a sieve recently whereas the Waterford defence has been a model of frugality.

Check out the table: 4-36 conceded in three games, 11 points less than their nearest miserly challengers (Galway).

The counter-argument is that Clare's more cutting edge will provide a far sterner test of Waterford's defensive resolve under new boss Derek McGrath.

It makes for a fascinating Ennis duel, with quarter-final advancement guaranteed for the winner.

ODDS: Clare 4/9, Draw 10/1, Waterford 21/10