ALLIANZ HL DIV 1A
CLARE v GALWAY (Ennis, Tomorrow 2.0)
NOW here's a conundrum. Five of the six combatants in Division 1A action tomorrow have something tangible to play for. The exception is All-Ireland champions Clare, who could lose by a cricket score to Galway and still be guaranteed a quarter-final place.
Could that reality affect their on-field attitude, even subconsciously? We suspect Clare will still bring plenty of vim and vigour into battle.
First up, they won't want to lose in front of their own faithful. Second, they definitely won't want to lose against their neighbouring rivals. Third, Davy Fitzgerald was given the perfect excuse to tackle any possible complacency issues after last weekend's curate's egg effort against Waterford.
They won the first half by a staggering 5-18 to 0-4 and lost the second by 0-16 to 1-3. In other words, with victory in the bag, Clare eased off the throttle, prompting their manager to surmise: "I'm very disappointed with the second half performance ... I want us to be consistent for 70 minutes."
Still, in that opening scorefest, there were reasons to be cheerful aplenty for Davy Fitz. Shane O'Donnell was slow out of the traps at the start of this league, so the All-Ireland hat-trick hero's reprise of last September (this time he settled for 2-2) was timely. In Podge Collins and Cathal McInerney he had buzzing accomplices.
On the same afternoon, Galway's flickering league prospects were revived by a deserved win over Tipperary. Yet this has been another typically topsy-turvy campaign from hurling's great enigmas.
Much may depend on whether Joe Canning and some of his Portumna cohorts (a) start and (b) hit the ground running after their club heroics. In that scenario, they might even avenge last summer's All-Ireland quarter-final implosion ... but the Banner look a slightly safer bet.
ODDS: Clare 4/11, Draw 11/1, Galway 5/2