Lar Corbett: Knowledge is power
A glorious opportunity presents itself for Clare and Waterford in what promises to be a cracking Munster hurling semi-final in Thurles on Sunday.
Both teams know that a victory opens up their entire summer -- with a provincial final and All-Ireland quarter-final the prizes on offer for the winners.
The victors also know that winning a Munster final would put them straight through to an All-Ireland semi-final.
That's where the real business begins. It's showtime and now, the championship season is ready to ignite.
On the opposite end of the draw to Tipperary and Cork, this game is massive for both teams, but Clare have an incalculable advantage in the form of manager Davy Fitzgerald, who managed Waterford for three and a half championship seasons and knows Sunday's opponents inside out.
People have differing opinions about Davy, but one thing's for sure -- the game needs him.
He brings his own unique brand of excitement -- I remember watching games when Davy would come roaring out of the tunnel, run down to his goalmouth and rattle the crossbar with the bas of his hurley.
As manager now of his native county, Davy would love nothing more than to put one over on Waterford and his inside track on the Deise could prove invaluable.
When he arrived in Waterford in 2008, he motivated them from the word go.
He hits the ground running with teams, bringing good structure and massive energy.
In the Waterford camp, the introduction of Ken McGrath to Michael Ryan's management team can have a similar effect. It was a good move on Ryan's behalf at a time when Waterford were struggling.
But Davy was with those Waterford players for three or four nights a week for three and a half seasons.
He knows what they do on the morning of the game, he knows what players are nervous or taking it all in their stride.
He'll know what the length of each Waterford player's hurley is, whether they strike primarily off left or right, who to niggle, who not to niggle.
He understands each individual player's mindset and he possesses more inside information on an opposing team than any other manager involved in the 2012 championship.
And he'll feel very confident. Davy will have told his players exactly what to do and, in turn, they will have absorbed very single word of instruction because they know that he knows what makes Waterford tick and where they're vulnerable.
Knowledge is power. He'll have learned from his mistakes, too. In the 2008 All-Ireland final, the aggressive pre-match approach against Kilkenny didn't work because he didn't know the mindset of the Kilkenny players. He tried something that he didn't know the answer to.
But on Sunday, Davy has the answers to the many questions that will have been occupying his thoughts in recent days and weeks.
Of course, Waterford realise this too, but as the game develops, a player will revert to type and his main habits will kick in. As hurlers, you see, our game is determined and established, to a large extent, through conditioning. We go back to what we know.
So, what can we expect from Clare? Well, I'm anticipating the highest levels of aggression that we've seen from them in the last five or six years. They'll come with huge passion and drive.
From a personal point of view, Davy won't lack for motivation. He put his own stamp on that Waterford team, but now, more than anything, he wants to beat them.
But when the final whistle blows, you'll see great respect. Davy and the Waterford players enjoyed some glorious highs and suffered massive lows during his time there, but they were shared experiences and will never be forgotten.
When I played against Clare teams and Davy was in goal, I never thought about him. I simply had a job to do and I never bring a preconceived notion about any player into a game. That's not my job. My job is to go out and try to do the best for the team.
I've met him a few times, sure. It was small talk, mainly, but he's a grand fella.
Tipperary inflicted some pain on him during last year's Munster final, but I reflect back on that game and look at the 21 points that Waterford posted, the same as us. Sure, we got a spray of goals, seven to be precise, and that set us apart from them.
But 21 points in a championship game is fair shooting and could be enough for either team to get over the line on Sunday.