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5 talking points after Clare, Waterford, Galway and Tipperary discover quarter-final tests

Páirc Uí Chaoimh is the stage for Clare and Waterford with the Gaelic Grounds hosting the meeting of Galway and Tipperary.

The quartet are bidding for semi-final spots on Saturday.
The quartet are bidding for semi-final spots on Saturday.
Image: INPHO

1. Tipperary and Galway in a heavyweight meeting

The reigning All-Ireland champions against the 2017 kingpins. That track record gives an indication of the mindset in both the Tipperary and Galway camps along with the ambitions they possess for this season. You suspect that both camps would have liked to avoid each other in this morning’s draw but instead they are pitted together in a massive knockout clash in late November.

Saturday’s fixture carries huge potential for captivating the neutral viewer, not least because of the recent history between them. The 2014 qualifier had a major impact in transforming Tipperary’s season, the 2017 league final loss was a setback they found it difficult to recover from. Factor in as well the epic semi-final trilogy between the pair from 2015-17 and this one packs plenty of promise.

2. A golden chance for Waterford and Clare

If you were asked to pick your hurling semi-finalists at the start of the year, or even during the pandemic before the inter-county season resumed, would either Waterford or Clare have made the cut? Neither were regarded highly but a combination of strong improvement and the way this morning’s draw has panned out, means at least one of them will contest that stage in 2020.

That’s a mark of huge progression considering neither even emerged from the Munster round-robin last year. It would be Clare’s second semi-final appearance in three years, something they would value considering the post-2013 struggles, and Waterford’s first since 2017. With new managers in charge, it’s a golden chance for Brian Lohan or Liam Cahill to enjoy an extended debut season.

brian-lohan-celebrates-after-the-game Brian Lohan celebrates after Clare's win over Wexford. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

3. Galway’s challenging path to glory

In the 55th minute on Saturday night when Jason Flynn pointed, Galway were five clear and in the driving seat to secure a third Leinster crown in four years. But the game swung on the piece of magic Richie Hogan conjured up for a goal, TJ Reid added another and Kilkenny edged it in the finale by two points. Instead of having a fortnight break for a semi-final, Galway are back out next Saturday after being involved in today’s draw.

And being pitted against Tipperary means they know the scale of the task they now face. Conquering Liam Sheedy’s charges is one thing, advance there and they will have to take down the Limerick team that overturned them in the 2018 final. That’s just to get back to the decider. It’s a challenging path to glory.

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joe-canning-with-noel-mcgrath Galway's Joe Canning and Tipperary's Noel McGrath in action in the 2017 league final in the Gaelic Grounds. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

4. Waterford hope for better Clare outcome

Derek McGrath oversaw a terrific win in the 2016 Munster semi-final but apart from that game, Waterford do not have great memories of their encounters with Clare of late. They were pipped by a point in Walsh Park last summer and soundly beaten by nine in Ennis the year before.

Throw in the 2016 league final replay loss when Tony Kelly rifled over a winner, along with three U21 losses in Munster between 2012 and 2015 which involved plenty of the current protagonists from both sides, and Waterford should have plenty fuel to motivate them on Saturday.

5. Grounds of choice

The selection of venues for Saturday’s games are striking and evident of how different factors are now influential in this 2020 Race for Liam. Looking out at the Gaelic Grounds pitch on Saturday after the Tipperary-Cork qualifier and the surface looked to have taken a battering, particularly around the goalmouths, during the storm that had raged that day. Is the pitch going to contribute to a dogfight ensuing on Saturday?

If it looked like Thurles was the obvious fit for Clare and Waterford, it is interesting that Páirc Uí Chaoimh has got the nod. The pitch surface there is currently in brilliant condition, after plenty investment in getting it right, and that should aid both sets of players. The location may not be the most convenient for the Clare players, especially given the requirements to transport themselves these days, but they do have experience there having played at the stadium for the 2017 and 2018 quarter-finals.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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