Sport Hurling

Sunday 25 February 2018

Today's hurling and football championship previews

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald

Dermot Crowe

Munster SHC Quarter-final

Clare v Waterford

Semple Stadium, 4.0

At various times Waterford have been spotted leaving the scene of Clare suffering. You can go back to the early 1990s when two Munster under 21 final defeats rained telling Deise blows on an already pummelled psyche.

One of those brought the unceremonious dismissal of Ger Loughnane. Unwittingly, the same deed created an almost preposterously more determined Loughnane who would alter the course of the county's hurling history.

Then there was Anthony Daly's opening-day massacre as Clare senior manager in 2004. A more immediate reflection is last year's encounter in Thurles, a chance lost, and their 11th instant exit in 13 years in Munster.

In colleges and underage hurling, Waterford have also been a scourge; this year's Clare minors took a heavy beating.

All of this breeds a healthy respect for Waterford in the Clare mentality. This does not alter the view that this is a point in the evolution of the Clare project, founded on abundant recent underage success, where victory is practically essential. Losing to Waterford two years running, this time without John Mullane, Stephen Molumphy, Shane Walsh, Shane Fives and Stephen Daniels, will not leave much room for mitigation. Expectation has had its fill.

Their spring deeds act as a positive harbinger. A losing start at home to Waterford in a tight group could have been fatal, but they produced enough over the campaign to justify survival. The exception was a heavy beating from Tipperary, keen to redress an earlier season loss.

Wides were a worrying feature, and an absence of goalscoring, but they were capable of running up big totals and digging themselves out of sticky situations, particularly in the relegation play-off with Cork.

Moreover, the composition of the team now looks more sensible, in line with their strengths. Séadna Morey spent most of the league in the full-back line, but Cian Dillon played well in a recent challenge against Dublin and is expected to figure in the corner today, while there is no reason to suggest Darach Honan won't start at full-forward.

The inside line will, presumably, be more conventional, abandoning the two-man policy which is not in the interests of a team of this nature, one capable of scoring goals if sufficiently trusted. Tony Kelly has already become a key player and will require of Waterford some tactical intervention or they will pay on the scoreboard. Someone is likely to be detailed to follow him; it won't – can't – be Brick Walsh.

Waterford, as the league reinforced, are a team not to be taken softly. Walsh, Kevin Moran and Seamus Prendergast provide experienced anchorage and they have a settled full-back after years of uncertainty in the position. They are also producing excellent young hurlers and some get their chance today: Paudie Prendergast, Jamie Barron and Jake Dillon. Maurice Shanahan and Brian O'Halloran, rumoured to be an injury doubt, are able score-getters.

But logic points to Clare. They are more experienced a year on, have Honan fit, Kelly involved and exuberant, and a season's learning in Division 1A complete. The time has come.

Clare: P Kelly; D O'Donovan, D McInerney, S Morey; B Bugler, P Donnellan, P O'Connor; C Galvin, Conor Ryan; J Conlon, T Kelly, Colin Ryan; P Collins, S O'Donnell, C McGrath.

Waterford: I O'Regan; D Fives, L Lawlor, N Connors; J Nagle, M Walsh, P Prendergast; S O'Sullivan, K Moran; M Shanahan, S Prendergast, B O'Halloran; J Barron, P Mahony, J Dillon.

Verdict: Clare

Ulster SFC Quarter-final

Derry v Down

Celtic Park, 2.0

As the injured Paddy Bradley observed in the last few days, Derry don't do expectancy terribly well. They host Down at the venue which produced a classic when both counties were in much finer fettle in 1994, incredibly their last Ulster championship meeting. There won't be the same atmosphere, crowd, quality or high stakes. The loser faces the qualifiers; the winner faces Donegal.

Down have had experience of Division 1 football in recent years, though that will cease after they suffered relegation this spring.

While the 2010 All-Ireland final appearance is still in the recent memory bank, the team has undergone considerable change, and spent a great deal of time and energy striving to make itself a more formidable proposition at the back.

Derry are on the rise, having won Division 2, but they lose two of their league final team through injury, Daniel Heavron and Raymond Wilkinson. Paddy Bradley is still out of contention. In his absence, they have been scoring impressively.

Down bring back Ambrose Rogers for his first competitive game of the year. He is named with Kevin McKernan in midfield, the full-forward role handed to Kalum King. Ryan Boyle, Keith Quinn and Niall Madine are all new to championship. Derry, with some useful knowledge from former Down accomplice Brian McIver to call on, might obey recent form and horse out a win.

Derry: E McNicholl; G O'Kane, C McKaigue, R Scott; C Kielt, M Lynch, S McGoldrick; P Bradley, R Bell; A McAlynn, J Kielt, E Lynn; B Heron, E Bradley, C Devlin.

Down: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, R Boyle; D Rooney, P Turley, K Quinn; A Rogers, K McKiernan; N Madine, M Poland, B Coulter; D O'Hare, K King, C Laverty.

Verdict: Derry

Leinster SHC Quarter-final

Laois v Carlow

O'Moore Park, 3.0

From a position where they conceded ten goals against Cork, suffered demotion to the third tier, spent a long stretch without a manager and were urged to drop to the Christy Ring, Laois find themselves in a far sunnier place. The win over Antrim was their biggest in years and revealed glimpses of the talent at their disposal when they put their minds to it.

They have had a good response from players and in Keenan, Hyland and Fitzgerald they have forwards who can hurt teams. Carlow are improving and defeated Laois a few years ago but the O'Moores look the more likely company for Galway in the semi-finals.

Laois: E Reilly; B Stapleton, B Campion, J A Delaney; C Healy, M Whelan, G Burke; J Fitzpatrick, J Walsh; S Maher, Z Keenan, W Hyland; J Brophy, T Fitzgerald, B Dunne.

Carlow: Team not available.

Verdict: Laois

Irish Independent

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