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Clare v Waterford, Munster SHC quarter-final match guide

The Banner face the Deise tomorrow as the opening shots are fried in the 2013 Munster senior hurling championship.

Clare's Pat Donnellan and Waterford's Maurice Shanahan.
Clare's Pat Donnellan and Waterford's Maurice Shanahan.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Munster SHC quarter-final
Clare v Waterford
Sunday, 4pm
Semple Stadium, Thurles
(Ref: James McGrath, Westmeath)

Latest from the medics and management…

Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald has handed championship debuts to David McInerney, Conor Ryan and Shane O’Donnell for Sunday’s tie.

Despite struggling with injury in the build-up to the game, Seadna Morey is named at corner back on the Banner County line-up. There are eight members of last year’s U21 side in Clare’s team, with nine survivors from the team beaten by Waterford in last year’s Munster championship.

Waterford boss Michael Ryan has been left reeling by a spate of pre-match injury problems. Stephen Daniels, Shane Walsh and Shane Fives are ruled out of the Déise’s starting line-up and Richie Foley is not yet match-fit.

In addition, last year’s first-choice midfield pairing of Philip Mahony and Stephen Molumphy are also unavailable. Molumphy is on Army duty, Mahony is travelling and of course, five-time Allstar John Mullane and Eoin Kelly have retired.

Ryan has picked Darragh Fives at corner back, despite the fact that he lined out at midfield during the National League. Paudie Prendergast, Jamie Barron and Jake Dillon will make their championship debuts and goalkeeper Ian O’Regan, who played in the 2004 All-Ireland semi-final, gets the nod ahead of Stephen O’Keeffe.

CLARE: Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona); Domhnall O’Donovan (Clonlara), David McInerney (Tulla), Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge); Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Patrick Donnellan (O’Callaghan Mills), Patrick O’Connor (Tubber); Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Conor Ryan (Cratloe); John Conlon (Clonlara), Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Colin Ryan (Newmarket-on-Fergus); Padraic Collins (Cratloe), Shane O’Donnell (Eire Og), Conor McGrath (Cratloe).
WATERFORD: Ian O’Regan (Mount Sion); Darragh Fives (Tourin), Liam Lawlor (Fourmilewater), Noel Connors (Passage); Jamie Nagle (Dungarvan), Michael Walsh (Stradbally), Paudie Prendergast (Lismore); Shane O’Sullivan (Ballygunner), Kevin Moran (De La Salle); Maurice Shanahan (Lismore), Seamus Prendergast (Ardmore), Brian O’Halloran (Clashmore/Kinsalebeg); Jamie Barron (Fourmilewater), Pauric Mahony (Ballygunner), Jake Dillon (De La Salle).

Checking the odds….

Despite the fact that Waterford beat Clare in last year’s championship, and in the first round of the 2013 National League, they start as underdogs. The bookies offer favourites Clare at 4-7, with Waterford available at 7-4. The draw is available at 10-1 and that’s sure to tempt some punters.

Clues from the form guide….

Privately, Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald is wondering why his team has been installed as hot favourites. After all, Waterford have Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, Kevin Moran and Seamus Prendergast as established leaders in the team, with experienced midfielder Shane O’Sullivan back in harness after he was abroad for last year’s championship.

The majority of Waterford’s starters have won Munster championship medals while Clare remain unproven in many respects. Clare haven’t won a Munster championship game since 2008 but the pressure is on Fitzgerald and his emerging stars to deliver. All-Ireland U21 success in 2009 and 2012 looks like bearing fruit yet Waterford will provide dogged resistance.

Call it complacency or whatever you like but Clare would have felt confident of beating Waterford at the start of the League campaign. Instead, the visitors to Cusack Park enjoyed a morale-boosting win, with debutant Jake Dillon in exceptional form in attack. Both teams have named three championship debutants and Fitzgerald is acutely aware of Waterford’s championship pedigree.

Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald.
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

The game breakers are….

Clare’s Tony Kelly is capable of hurting Waterford. His expected match-up with Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh could be one of the highlights of the afternoon but Walsh’s positioning will be interesting. Traditionally, Walsh has been content to sit back and hold his position but this might not suit Waterford if Kelly, as expected, operates in a roving role.

Could it come to pass that Kevin Moran picks up Kelly, with Walsh reverting to a wing-back position? Waterford feel that if they can stop Kelly exerting an influence, they will be a long way down the road to victory.

And what way will Davy Fitzgerald set out his Clare team? The short-passing possession style of game is high-risk and brilliant to watch when it’s done well and executed at speed. But Waterford will feel confident of breaking down Clare by applying maximum pressure in key areas.

If this happens, Clare must vary their gameplan and a more direct style could suit Shane O’Donnell and Conor McGrath close to goal. Clare have struggled for goals this year but if they get them on Sunday, Waterford are in trouble.

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The Déise need somebody to step up in their forward line to fill the massive void left by John Mullane. At 33 years of age, Seamus Prendergast looks as good and as fit as ever but Waterford badly need championship debutants Jamie Barron and Jake Dillon to catch fire.

Waterford’s Seamus Prendergast.
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

Gazing into the crystal ball….

The touchline battle could be as intriguing as what happens out on the pitch. It’s no secret that rival managers Davy Fitzgerald and Michael Ryan don’t like each other and so far, Ryan has had the upper hand in direct battles with Clare. Fitzgerald is desperate to get one over on his former employers and he’s not forgotten the nature of Waterford’s post-match celebrations following last year’s Thurles showdown.

But Fitzgerald has pitched his emotion to one side and concentrated on developing a gameplan to floor Waterford. With a host of All-Ireland U21 medallists at Clare’s disposal, many pundits have tipped them to emerge as the fourth-best team in this year’s championship, if not better.

On all known form, Kilkenny, Tipp and Galway should be three or four All-Ireland semi-finalists and it would come as no surprise if Clare are still involved in August.

Behind the scenes, Ger Cunningham and Pat Flanagan have been pulling the strings at Waterford training sessions. Ryan is viewed as more of a figurehead but his hurling nous and ability to pick a team capable of delivering on a championship Sunday should not be underestimated.

However, we suspect that Waterford’s luck against Clare is about to run out. And come 5.30 on Sunday evening, Clare will be celebrating a first victory in the Munster SHC since 2008.

Verdict: Clare

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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