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6 talking points as Cork, Clare, Limerick and Dublin chase hurling qualifier glory

It’s two from four to advance to the All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals.

1. Michael Carton’s absence

It emerged this week that Michael Carton has quit the Dublin senior hurling panel ahead of tomorrow’s qualifier with Limerick in Thurles.

How this will impact on his teammates may only become apparent in the heat of battle at Semple Stadium against the Shannonsiders.

Carton paid the price for Dublin’s defensive deficiencies against Galway by losing his place for the victory over Laois in the qualifiers.

But the O’Tooles clubman was an extremely popular figure in the Dublin dressing room and his decision to quit won’t have been taken lightly.

His absence also deprives Dublin boss Ger Cunningham of a more than useful option off the bench.

Cyril Donnellan and Michael Carton Michael Carton (3) endured a torrid time against Galway. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Can Limerick show further progress?

Judging by spells of Limerick’s qualifier victory over Westmeath, they’re still nursing a hangover from that 16-point Munster semi-final thumping at the hands of Tipperary.

But beating Dublin in Thurles would be ideal dose of Solpadeine required to get the Shannonsiders firmly back on track.

Limerick won’t need reminding, however, that Dublin gave them a walloping at Croke Park earlier this year in the Allianz League quarter-final.

The Sky Blues also beat Limerick when the sides last met in championship hurling.

Ryan O’Dwyer scored 3-2 for the Sky Blues in Thurles four years ago and there are nine survivors from the Limerick starting team that day lining out tomorrow.

Dublin also beat Limerick in the 2013 Division 2 final and have the Indian sign on their opponents in recent years.

TJ Ryan TJ Ryan will hope to steer Limerick past Dublin. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

3. Are Clare on course to repeat their 2013 heroics?

Tomorrow is a huge match for Davy Fitzgerald and Clare.

Their tussle with Cork will rekindle memories of those classic 2013 All-Ireland finals but the stakes are almost as high this time.

Defeat for both sides is unthinkable but Clare will feel they’re well placed to expose any chinks in the Cork armour.

Source: Micheal O Thailtigh/YouTube

Fitzgerald will have studied Cork’s new system closely last weekend and two years ago, his tactical nous won the day in the touchline battle with Jimmy Barry-Murphy.

On paper, Clare are still one of the leading contenders for All-Ireland glory and they now have all of their key personnel available once again.

A victory against Cork would see Clare safely through to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, where they will meet a wounded provincial loser. It’s a tantalising prospect for Banner County fans.

4. How will Cork set up?

Cork moved well in the first half of last Saturday’s clash against Wexford, as boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy tweaked his team and formation.

The return of Seamus Harnedy from injury allowed JBM to deploy a two-man full-forward line, with Harnedy and Conor Lehane wreaking havoc.

Patrick Horgan operated with success out around the half-forward line and Alan Cadogan played as almost an auxiliary midfielder.

Mark Ellis sat deep as a sweeper and if Cork had used this set-up against Clare in the 2013 All-Ireland final replay, they may have won the game.

The Banner County exposed huge holes in the Cork rearguard throughout that September rematch but JBM has obviously heeded calls to deviate from his traditional 15 on 15 style.

Cork wouldn’t have known that they would face Clare when they put their new gameplan into force last weekend but after it worked relatively well, it’s likely that JBM will go with the same system again.

Seamus Harnedy with Andrew Kenny Seamus Harnedy's return is a huge boost to Cork. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

5. Can Cian Lynch rediscover his early season form?

The Limerick teenager exploded onto the senior intercounty stage with a mammoth display against Clare in the Munster championship.

But the Patrickswell dynamo has found the going tough since then, as Tipperary pulled down the shutters in the Munster semi-final before he was held scoreless against Westmeath last weekend.

Lynch will have learned more those last two outings than his debut match and now has the chance to back up the hype surrounding him by producing another big performance.

Source: officialgaa/YouTube

He’ll see the wide open spaces of Semple Stadium and a suspect Dublin full-back line as opportunities to recapture top form.

Dublin may well decide to deploy Paul Schutte in a man-marking role as Lynch has the ability to roam with devastating effect.

But Schutte is still finding his feet again after he was roasted by Galway’s Cathal Mannion in Leinster quarter-final replay.

6. Will defeat signal the end for Davy Fitz or Jimmy Barry-Murphy?

After Clare’s All-Ireland success of 2013, it was announced that Davy Fitzgerald would continue as Banner County boss until 2017 at least.

His position may come under review should Clare crash out at the qualifier stage again but Fitzgerald will feel confident that he has the backing to continue in the role even if his team bows out.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s tenure could end with defeat, however. He’s on the record as stating that he was in two minds about staying on for the 2015 season following last year’s crushing All-Ireland semi-final defeat against Tipperary.

The Leeside icon’s status will not be diminished regardless of what happens in Thurles tomorrow.

He’s a legend in the eyes of Cork fans and players and it’s anticipated that when JBM’s future in charge comes up for review, he will leave on his own terms if that is indeed to be the case.

The only thing we know for certain right now is that one of these top bosses will field questions about his future after the final whistle sounds in Thurles tomorrow evening.

Jimmy Barry Murphy and manager Davy Fitzgerald Will Davy Fitzgerald or Jimmy Barry-Murphy bite the dust? Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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