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Martin Breheny: Clash of the Banner and Rebels set to cap hurling's greatest year

If tomorrow's Clare v Cork All-Ireland hurling final clash lives up to expectations, it will establish the 2013 campaign as probably the best in championship history.

Neither Clare nor Cork were fancied to reach Croke Park in September at the start of the action last May, but the pair plotted their way through a remarkably unpredictable season to book in for the first all-Munster clash for the MacCarthy Cup since Clare beat Tipperary by a point in 1997.

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald played a crucial role in that success, making a brilliant save from John Leahy in the final minute.

It's the first time since 2004 that two counties who were beaten in the provincial championships have reached the All-Ireland final. Ironically, Clare's defeat was inflicted by Cork who beat them by eight points in the Munster semi-final last June while Cork later lost to Limerick in the final.


Clare relaunched their All-Ireland adventure via the qualifiers and after beating Laois, Wexford, Galway and Limerick are back in the final for the first time since 2002. They last won the title in 1997.

Cork, who last won the title in 2005, are back in the final for the first time since 2006. Jimmy Barry-Murphy's men will start favourites after beating Kilkenny in the quarter-final and Leinster champions Dublin in the semi-final.

Barry-Murphy is bidding for the rare achievement of presiding over an All-Ireland success in a second stint as manager, having already guided Cork to glory in 1999.

Cork are attempting to win the title for the 31st time, while Clare are seeking their fourth crown. Throw-in will be at 3.30 and will follow the minor final between Waterford and Galway (1.15). the Deise are seeking their first title since 1948, while Galway last won the title two years ago. Tribes boss, Mattie Murphy is seeking a seventh success, having led them to glory in 1992, '94, 2004, '05, '09, '10 and '11.

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