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Kelly and Collins seek top form, Premier firepower, new Páirc Uí Chaoimh - Tipp-Clare talking points

The counties lock horns at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in an eagerly-anticipated clash.

THE SCENE IS set for the very first senior inter-county fixture at the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

And what a tie lies in store as Clare face off against Tipperary in the All-Ireland senior hurling championship quarter-final.

Clare are coming into this fixture after suffering defeat to Cork in the Munster final, while Tipp have bounced back from their provincial quarter-final loss to the Rebels with victories over Westmeath and Dublin.

But from here on in, it’s pure knock-out fare and the stakes couldn’t be higher for old rivals Tipp and Clare, with a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals on offer for the winners.

Here, we take a look at some of the main talking points ahead of the game…

Return to the banks of the Lee for Tipp and Clare

Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

For the first time since 2003, Tipp and Clare will meet in a senior championship fixture at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Older fans from both counties will remember some of the classic clashes between the counties at the Cork venue in the late 1990s and early 2000s – but this is a new departure for a fresh generation of supporters.

Between 1999 and 2003, the sides met six times in Cork, including a 1999 draw and replay.

For the most part, they were titanic and intense clashes, played out in a heaving cauldron.

In 1999, this Davy Fitzgerald penalty salvaged a replay for Clare, before the Banner County won the replay comfortably:

Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube

There was another memorable clash two years later, Tipp edging a knock-out Munster semi-final by just a single point, before going on to claim the provincial and All-Ireland titles:

Source: CR's Video Vaults/YouTube

The rivalry was at its most intense when Ger Loughnane was in charge of Clare in that era, with Nicky English managing the Tipp team from 1999-2002.

Many Clare people reference English’s smile after popping over a point in the 1993 Munster final rout as one of the reasons behind Clare’s subsequent resurgence:

Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube

With English and Loughnane at the helm, the exchanges were hot and heavy between the respective counties.

The record between 1999 and 2003 reads:

  • Tipperary 3 wins.
  • Clare 2 wins.
  • one draw (1999).

Michael Doyle was Tipperary manager in 2003 when the Premier County last met Clare in Cork, and the Banner men ran out 2-17 to 0-14 winners.

Loughnane had stepped down as Clare boss in 2000, following a 1-14 to 2-19 Munster semi-final defeat against Tipp.

Time a healer in Clare-Tipp rivalry

Seamus Hennessy captained the Tipperary U-21 hurlers in 2008. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

The heated rivalry between Tipp and Clare reached its peak in a 1999 Munster U-21 hurling final at Cusack Park, when a sideline brawl broke out at full-time.

The atmosphere at the Ennis venue that night was bordering on poisonous but since then, relations between the counties have been more amicable.

That’s due in some part to the more sporadic senior championship games between the counties, although there was another controversial Munster U-21 final meeting at Cusack Park in 2008, when Tipp won in dramatic fashion.

Referee Jason O'Mahony Jason O'Mahony refereed the controversial 2008 Munster U-21 hurling final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

With the sides level, Conor Tierney was lining up a 21-yard free in front of the Tipp posts but referee Jason O’Mahony was alerted to an incident at the other end of the field by one of his umpires, who ruled that Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy had stepped outside his small square from a puck-out.

O’Mahony reversed the Clare free, awarding a ’65 to Tipperary instead, which Pa Bourke converted.

Seamus Hennessy lifted the trophy for Tipperary amidst a chorus of boos from outraged home fans.

But this latest senior clash is the first between the counties since 2011, when Tipp won the Munster semi-final in Limerick by 4-19 to 1-19.

Tipp carrying momentum against wounded Clare

Clare are still licking their wounds following the recent Munster final defeat to Cork, and with full-back David McInerney considered a major doubt for the meeting with Tipp at the time of writing.

Tipp, in contrast, have managed to build up a nice head of steam since losing to Cork in May.

Following an underwhelming victory over Westmeath, Tipp opened up against Dublin in round 2 of the qualifiers, racking up 6-26.

The inside line of Seamus Callanan (3-11), John McGrath (2-2) and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer (0-4) contributed 5-17 between them against the Sky Blues.

How Clare set up to counter-act that trio will have a huge bearing on today’s result.

John O'Dwyer celebrates his goal with John McGrath John McGrath and John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer are huge threats to Clare. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Colm Galvin appeared to operate in a deep-lying role against Cork but will Clare consider reverting to a sweeper in an attempt to cut off the supply of ball to the Tipp full-forward line?

At the very least, Clare must keep their full-back and half-back lines as close together as possible because Cork used the space between both lines brilliantly in the Munster final, with Patrick Horgan and Alan Cadogan wreaking havoc.

The Cork men are accomplished forwards and Clare have been forewarned, which surely means they’re forearmed for what’s coming against Tipp.

Clare have the pace to trouble Tipp

As Clare consider how they’re going to tackle Tipp’s attack, the Premier County have issues of their own to consider.

In the Dublin game, Tipp looked vulnerable defensively, particularly in the first half.

Cian O’Sullivan got in for a 15th-minute goal and Tipp could have conceded at least one other major before half-time.

Padraic Maher and Cian O'Sullivan Dublin's Cian O'Sullivan in action against Pádraic Maher. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

David Treacy was another to profit in pockets of space, particularly on the right touchline, but Tipp’s forward power compensated for that looseness.

Clare have the pace and runners from deep to trouble Tipp, and they’ll surely stick Cathal Malone or John Conlon on Pádraic Maher to stop him arrowing quality deliveries inside.

Maher was brilliant in this regard in Dublin game but Clare will want to get him, and brother Ronan, on the turn and facing their own goal more.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If the Mahers are on the front foot, that spells trouble for Clare but Tipp are still bedding in what’s essentially a new full-back line, with Donagh Maher, Tomás Hamill and James Barry used there for the last two games.

Michael Cahill is pushing hard for a recall, however, and manager Michael Ryan might opt for specialist corner backs in Donagh Maher and Cahill, with Hamill or Barry selected in the full-back position.

Clare need Kelly and Collins firing

If Clare are to have a chance of getting one over on their old rivals, they’ll need Tony Kelly and Podge Collins firing on all cylinders.

In the championship to date, the potentially lethal duo have been peripheral figures but the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, in a knock-out championship fixture, could be the occasion to light the fuse.

Kelly is a former Hurler of the Year and was superb for Ballyea in their run to an All-Ireland club final earlier this year.

But having cut a subdued figure in that St Patrick’s Day decider, he’s struggled for top form since.

Collins was called ashore in both games, and he was subbed off at half-time in the Munster final loss to Cork.

But against a Tipp defence that could be vulnerable to pace, Kelly and Collins present real threats it they’re in the mood.

First inter-county fixture at new Páirc Uí Chaoimh

The road to Cork was once a well-worn path for supporters of Tipperary and Clare.

During the week, Blarney and Valley Rovers had the privilege of playing at the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the very first time, in a Premier intermediate club hurling clash.

But today marks the first official inter-county fixture at the multi-million facility, and Clare and Tipp have the honour of being the first teams out.

Previous meetings between the counties there have been players togging out in cramped facilities but there will be no such problems on this occasion.

And from pictures and videos we’ve seen on social media, the pitch looks ready for what promises to be a cracking tie.

For spectators, players and officials alike, it should a day to savour.

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