Boland's powerful unit built to deliver goods
THE Dublin minor hurling team will hope that the yellow colour in Clare's jerseys won't represent the proverbial banana skin when the sides meet in the All-Ireland MHC semi-final at Croke Park tomorrow.
Shay Boland's young charges are hot favourites to triumph against a Banner team which has played five times in the U-18 championship and lost twice.
Clare's first-round tie in Munster ended in defeat to Waterford, but they showed their mettle by taking out Cork in the qualifiers, and ousted Limerick to qualify for a place in the provincial final against Tipperary.
The Premier youngsters came out on top in that encounter, but there was a second chance for Clare by virtue of a quarter-final contest with Down and they comfortably got over that hurdle to book their place in tomorrow's showdown with the Dubs.
Perhaps some of Clare's stuttering displays can be attributed to them developing a largely new team, with only four players on duty who performed in last year's campaign.
They are, goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan, Shane O'Brien, who skippers the side, Shane O'Donnell and Jamie Shanahan.
By contrast, Dublin, who were beaten finalists against Galway last year, can call on 16 of their 2011 panel, and at this level, that's an abundance of experience available to manager Boland.
A year older and physically stronger, the city boys have plenty of conviction and commitment, but sport does not always go by the form book.
The Dubs were reminded of that in spades when facing a skilful and resilient Wexford outfit who managed an extra-time win against the metropolitans.
Stung by that reverse, Dublin set about atoning for their loss, and since then, have reignited their 2012 challenge with successful outings against Carlow, Kilkenny and then Wexford again in the Leinster final.
Along the way, the Leinster champs have racked up 8-68 and conceded 1-49, in four matches, with Paul Winters of St Brigid's the leading scorer with 3-29.
Clare have now been in action on five occasions, scoring 8-81 and conceding 5-64. The 'scores for' column was boosted by the 3-19 the Banner amassed at the expense of hapless Down, who only managed 0-5 in reply.
The Clare manager, Eamonn Fennessy, has no injury problems for the Dubs game, and there's no question about the ability of his team to rise to the occasion.
However, the greater strength in depth and experience of Dublin should be enough to see them through the challenge presented by the Banner.