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5 talking points before tonight's All-Ireland U21 final between Clare and Wexford

The Banner are searching for a third U21 title in a row as they take on Wexford in Semple Stadium.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Can big players deliver?

It’s hard to believe that 2013 Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly is still U21, but he will line out on Sunday hoping to make up for a disappointing senior campaign. Kelly is joined by Shane O’Donnell, who suffered an injury plagued season but has returned to full fitness and is ready to make an impact following persistent hamstring trouble and a broken hand.

Jack Guiney will also play his last underage game for Wexford tonight and, along with Conor McDonald carries Wexford’s scoring threat tonight. Defenders Seadna Morey and Liam Ryan will have a big role to play for Clare and Wexford respectively in a game where the senior stars will hope to lead the way.

2. Last game for Clare’s golden generation

The curtain will fall on this remarkable talented crop of Clare youngsters after tonight’s game. Together they’ve delivered five straight Munster titles between minor and U21 level and could sign off with a third U21 All-Ireland in-a-row.

For many of Clare’s starting fifteen, their underage adventure will come to an end tonight, barring a replay. Can they become the first team since Limerick in 2002 to win three U21 titles back-to-back?

Seadna Morey 16/7/2014 Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

3. Semi-final momentum

Clare are 1/4 odds on favourites with most bookmakers heading into the game, but the lack of a test in their facile semi-final win over Antrim may be a concern. The Banner handed out a 27-point trimming to the Ulster champions, while Wexford overcame a fierce battle with Galway by two points.

The Slaneysiders trailed by a point at half-time and trailed by four early in the second half before they finished strongly to book their first All-Ireland U21 final in 13 years.

4.  Can Wexford bridge the gap?

Wexford are bidding for only their second All-Ireland title at this grade and first since 1965. Their resurgence at senior level this year was no doubt helped by the presence of a number of the current U21 crop.

They were stunned by Antrim in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final and tonight represents a huge opportunity for Wexford to bring home some silverware and round-off a positive year for hurling in the county.

Hugh OÕNeill and Andrew Kenny Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

5. Clare’s lightning fast starts

In their wins over Cork and Antrim, the Banner have blown the opposition out of the water in the opening quarter. Both games were as good as over after Clare’s electric starts propelled them into substantial early leads. If Wexford are to upset the odds tonight, a good start will be pivotal.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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