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5 selection posers for the Clare hurlers ahead of All-Ireland qualifiers

Boss Davy Fitzgerald has been doing plenty of thinking since the Munster championship defeat to Limerick.

Davy Fitzgerald is tossing a number of selection issues around in his head.
Davy Fitzgerald is tossing a number of selection issues around in his head.
Image: Tommy Greally/INPHO

CLARE BOUNCED BACK from a Munster championship defeat against Cork in 2013 to finish the season as All-Ireland champions.

Through the back door, the Banner County proved an unstoppable force and manager Davy Fitzgerald believes that he can work another miracle this year.

But Fitzgerald is certain to shuffle his pack ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier against Offaly as he looks to build momentum again.

Here, we look at the key selection issues dominating his thoughts in the coming days:

1. Does Colm Galvin slot straight back in?

Galvin’s energy and drive were sorely lacking in the Clare engine room when they lost to Limerick in the Munster championship.

Gearóid O’Connell was drafted in alongside Patrick Donnellan but Clare lost the key battle around the middle third and their task was made almost impossible with Donnellan’s sending-off.

The captain is suspended for Saturday and it’s almost certain that Galvin will slot straight back in after coming home from Boston.

Source: breakingthrough/YouTube

Who partners him is the big question. O’Connell may struggle to hold onto his place after he was subbed with 13 minutes left against Limerick.

Tony Kelly and Galvin would represent an exciting midfield combination but Fitzgerald may be loathe to take Kelly out of attack.

2. What about the full-back line?

2013 All-Ireland final hero Domhnall O’Donovan was given a torrid time by Cian Lynch against Limerick.

O’Donovan made way in the 54th minute and was replaced by Fitzgerald’s Sixmilebridge clubmate Seadna Morey, who many believe should be in the team anyway.

Playing against Offaly gives Fitzgerald the chance to tinker with his team and he has the option of trying to play O’Donovan back into form, or making the hard call and leaving him out.

A dejected Seadna Morey Will Seadna Morey earn a start against Offaly on Saturday? Source: Tommy Greally/INPHO

Clare are not exactly packed with defensive options but Fitzgerald may also consider dropping Jack Browne to corner back, with Brendan Bugler back from suspension to man the right-half back position.

Browne’s discipline remains suspect but he’s the kind of no-nonsense player that Fitzgerald likes and he lasted the full game against Limerick.

3. Will Brendan Bugler return?

With Patrick Donnellan suspended, 29-year-old Brendan Bugler will be the elder statesman in the Clare line-up at the weekend.

And how they missed him against Limerick in an abrasive Munster championship defeat.

Bugler, fast approaching 30 years of age, provides leadership and experience in the Clare defence and bringing him back into the team after suspension is a no-brainer for Fitzgerald.

Source: doolinmusic/YouTube

The Whitegate colossus was unlucky not to be considered for the Hurler of the Year award in 2013 but sendings-off at critical times have interrupted his progress over the past two seasons.

Bugler brings physicality and aerial ability to the Clare half-back line and he should hold his position in the team for the remainder of the season.

4. Who’ll lose out with Conor McGrath back?

The return of Conor McGrath to Clare’s starting line-up is a fait accompli.

On his day, the Cratloe hitman is one of the finest forwards in the country and both Shane Golden and David Reidy will be looking over their shoulders.

In a Clare attack that is very much interchangeable, Tony Kelly (if named up front), Colin Ryan, Shane O’Donnell and John Conlon are definite starters.

Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube

David Reidy impressed throughout the Allianz League but found the going tough against Limerick and was whipped off early in the second half.

Shane Golden lasted until two minutes from time and scored a point, with Fitzgerald hailing his work-rate and performance afterwards.

That suggests Reidy will miss out, accommodating the return of McGrath from injury.

5. What happens with supersub Aaron Cunningham?

If Cunningham has recovered from a hamstring injury, what does Fitzgerald do with him?

Cunningham’s impact off the bench against Limerick was startling, as the Wolfe Tones hitman bagged 2-1 after coming off the bench.

His goals were carbon copy efforts and Clare fans love Cunningham’s direct, if unorthodox, style of play.

He offers a different dimension for Clare in attack, a player that can run at goal but also win his own ball, and Fitzgerald may be tempted to hold him in reserve again.

Source: breakingthrough/YouTube

Offaly presents the ideal opportunity, however, to see if Cunningham is up to it if given a start.

A renowned goalgetter but with a recent history of hamstring problems, 22-year-old Cunningham is a more than useful option for Clare.

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