Sunday 21 January 2018

Previews: Allianz Hurling League semi-finals

Tipperary's Noel McGrath could hold the cards for Clare. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Tipperary's Noel McGrath could hold the cards for Clare. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Dermot Crowe

Galway v Kilkenny

Gaelic Grounds, 2.00pm

Galway's chances have been reportedly hampered by injuries and Fergal Moore's loss is confirmed. Moore's absence has a potential domino effect, as he provided useful cover for the novice full-back Ronan Burke. Iarla Tannian and Niall Healy are expected to play and Joe Canning will play some part. But Galway have some thinking to do on how best to set up against a team that is finding its stride and has found some fresh legs.

When the teams met in April, Galway were seven points behind Kilkenny at the end; ten more would not have flattered the winners.

Since Nowlan Park their form has picked up and a draw in Clare was followed by a smart dismissal of Limerick at this venue. Players like Pádraig Brehony and Jonathan Glynn continue to gain experience and can offer more.

Kilkenny name a strong side, recalling Henry Shefflin and they're starting to reveal a familiar summer countenance; a few new faces still holding above water but many of the tried and tested resurfacing right through the field: JJ Delaney is settled back into position and there's a recall for Brian Hogan. Galway should be hardier now even with their selection problems but to win would require something special. Defeat by around five or six points looks about right.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Clare v Tipperary

Gaelic Grounds, 4.00pm

Some of Clare's injuries appear to have cleared so Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin are fit to play, while Darach Honan is also back and available, having gone off in the first round of the league with another injury and been in recovery for most of the time since. Shane O'Donnell is a loss given his recent form but Clare are not short of attacking options.

They have alternated their training between some rest periods and bursts of intensive work and head abroad on a week's training camp in the coming days.

If their form has declined over the last two matches, a draw in Ennis against Galway and a hard-earned quarter-final victory over Laois, then there is the likelihood of a step-up here.

Tipperary, in spite of everything, have arrived at the same juncture by the skin of their teeth and are showing timely signs of improvement and a shift in mental well-being. They come into the game nicely placed for a crack at Clare, driven by a bad defeat earlier in the campaign when they conceded 4-15.

It presupposes a great deal to make the case for them winning. Not unimaginable but Clare have more in their favour right now and that should tell.

Verdict: Clare

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