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Banner to bridge 20-year gap


John Conlon

John Conlon

John Conlon

That Anthony Daly was the last Clare man to lift the Munster Cup all of 20 years ago tells its own story about Clare's curiously dismal record in their provincial Championship in the interim.

Before last year, the Banner hadn't even been in a Munster final since 2008, despite having claimed an All-Ireland title during that period.

And prior to beating Limerick in last summer's provincial semi-final, Clare had lost eight of their nine matches in the competition, stretching back to that final in '08.

So if there is a team with a much more defined cause in Thurles today, it is surely Clare.

For all that, their management have been active in shielding their players from their own history, keen to stress that this is a new Clare, even if some of the components are particularly young.

John Conlon, for instance, is in the form of his life at 29 - a one-man battering ram - while Peter Duggan's 1-42 gives him a points per game tally of over 11.

They reliance of Tony Kelly is gone and the 2013 hurler of the year is free to work his magic deeper out the field while Podge Collins is returning to top form after a less than hectic couple of seasons.

Cork have had flashes of brilliance and naivety this summer, with Darragh Fitzgibbon admitting during the week that the system they employ has a high element of risk attached.

It's an attractive style but as exemplified in the second half of their draw with Limerick, they can go through periods in games when they lack direction and leaders.

Like Clare, for all Cork's pace and neat interplay, the influence of their primary attacking ball-winner, Seamus Harnedy. is obvious.

His 1-3 against Waterford last time out was decisive.

Cork's young players have already tasted provincial success and they've played better hurling this summer, but Clare seem primed.

Odds: Clare 11/10, Draw 8/1, Cork EVS

Verdict: Clare