Sunday 18 March 2018

Limerick and Clare to renew rivalry in Semple showdown

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Hurling's final all-or-nothing qualifier games will form part of a triple-header in Semple Stadium on Saturday.

Yesterday's draw pitted Cork against Wexford (5.0) and Clare against Limerick (7.0), and they will go ahead in Thurles on Saturday on the same bill as the Tipperary versus Wexford football qualifier (3.0).

Limerick's clash with Clare will be broadcast live on RTE and is undoubtedly the biggest attraction, considering the recent history between the sides. Not only is it a Munster derby, but little has separated the teams in recent meetings.

Limerick came from behind to win when the sides met in last year's Division 2 final and they have already played each other four times this year, with Clare coming out on top each time.

This year's sequence started in the Waterford Crystal Cup quarter-final, which went to double extra-time in Sixmilebridge the first day and was nicked by Clare in the replay.

The Banner had a much more emphatic win next day out, trouncing Limerick on the first day of the National League season. When the two sides met again in the Division 1B league final, which also decided promotion to Division 1A, sparks flew on and off the pitch. At one point, Limerick boss John Allen had words with Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald.

Limerick lost an eight-point lead that day and midfielder James Ryan thundered into Fitzgerald on the sideline at one stage, an incident the Clare manager later said may have helped to disturb the opposition's concentration and got his side back into the game.

Limerick's fortunes took another twist when selector Ciaran Carey stepped down four weeks before their Munster championship clash with Tipperary, alleging the team's physical conditioning wasn't up to scratch.

But Limerick showed no signs of that in Munster, giving Tipp a tough game and only losing by four points. Since then, Allen's side have trounced Laois and Antrim, racking up 14-47.

Clare also gave Waterford a serious battle in Munster, eventually losing by just two points and they pulled out a huge performance last weekend, reshaping their team and beating Dublin despite going a man down.

The Banner have a very short turnaround this week but reported no major injury worries yesterday.

Limerick are expected to be without Conor Allis (shoulder ligament) and Paul Browne, who had keyhole surgery on a knee problem last week. However, Declan Hannon and Seamus Hickey, who both only came off the bench against Antrim, are now back to full fitness.

Irish Independent

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