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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 24 October, 2019

5 talking points as Clare, Limerick, Cork and Wexford set for qualifier battles

It’s all on the line in next Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC qualifiers in Thurles, with quarter-final spots on offer.

1. Vultures hovering over TJ Ryan

Source: Tommy Greally/INPHO

Clare and Limerick have previous already this year, having met in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League.

It was a winner-takes-all promotion clash at Cusack Park in Ennis and Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare won it, before going on to claim the League title outright.

Limerick lost by four points and had Barry Nash sent off in the first half but Clare shot 19 wides too and could have won by more.

For Limerick, meeting Clare again is a massive task, and one that should prove insurmountable.

The Shannonsiders slumped desperately against Tipperary in the Munster semi-final and while victory over Westmeath last weekend in the qualifiers got their campaign back on track, there are major question marks hanging over TJ Ryan’s team.

Defeat could spell the end of Ryan’s tenure in charge of the Treaty men. Those ‘vultures’ he referred to earlier in the year are already hovering.

2. Good chance for Clare to progress

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

It’s a Munster derby but meeting Limerick presents Clare with a more than decent chance to make further inroads in the All-Ireland series.

The Banner County’s back-door experiences in 2014 and 2015 have been forgettable, and they’ve failed to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals, but they’re good enough to bridge that gap this time.

Clare unloaded with a massive 5-32 tally against hapless Laois at the weekend and while they won’t rack a score like that at the weekend, they should still have enough to get past Limerick.

The word in Clare is that they’ve already set their sights on a potential All-Ireland quarter-final clash with Galway and that scenario could come to pass.

If Clare perform against Limerick, they’ll win the game and boss Davy Fitzgerald will be anxious to clear a hurdle that has proved beyond them over the last two seasons.

3. Can Wexford finally overcome Cork?

Liam Dunne Wexford boss Liam Dunne. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Clare and Limerick know plenty about each other but Cork and Wexford have recent history too.

In last year’s round 1 qualifier at Wexford Park, Cork dug out a gritty win at Innovate Wexford Park.

The Rebels were smarting from a Munster semi-final defeat to Waterford but Patrick Horgan, Conor Lehane and Seamus Harnedy collected 2-16 between them against Wexford.

Conor Lehane celebrates scoring the first goal of the game Conor Lehane wheels away in celebration after netting against Wexford last year. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

With Horgan drifting out to the half-forward line, Harnedy and Lehane formed a potent two-man inside line and Wexford couldn’t cope.

The sides also met in the 2012 qualifiers in Thurles, when Cork ran out ten-point winners. One of their three goals that day was one of Anthony Nash’s now outlawed penalties:

Source: MarcasOCallanain/YouTube

Eight points separated the sides a year ago but this is a dangerous assignment for Cork against a Wexford team that produced a spirited display against Offaly at the weekend.

Still, the Leesiders have been fortunate with the qualifier draws so far. They had Dublin at home and are now on what’s perceived to be easier side of this morning’s pairings.

4. Absentees will prove too much for Wexford to cope with

Alan Cadogan with Andrew Shore Andrew Shore hunts down Alan Cadogan in last year's Wexford-Cork qualifier. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Speaking to reporters after Saturday’s victory over Offaly, Wexford boss Liam Dunne listed the players he’s currently operating without.

Andrew Shore and Shane Tomkins both underwent cruciate knee ligament surgery last Friday week at the Santry Sports Surgery Clinic while Aidan Nolan, David Redmond, Shaun Murphy and Liam Ryan are also on the injured list.

If you factor in that Jack Guiney made himself unavailable for the championship, Dunne is without over half a team.

Lee Chin Lee Chin's return from injury is a timely boost for Wexford. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The return of Lee Chin was a huge boost to Wexford, however, and he played extremely well against Offaly.

Conor McDonald can do damage with the right supply of ball while Podge Doran and David Dunne were excellent too at the weekend.

Wexford still possess some good individual players but whether the team is strong enough to clear the Cork hurdle is a moot point.

5. The Thurles factor

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Clare, Cork, Limerick and Wexford don’t have happy memories from their last championship visits to Thurles.

Cork and Limerick were both beaten by Tipperary there in this year’s Munster championship, Clare lost to Waterford and Wexford slumped in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Limerick two years ago at Semple Stadium.

But for two of the four this weekend, the trip to Tipp will provide a much better outcome.

Tom Morrissey dejected Dejected Limerick hurlers following their Munster semi-final defeat to Tipperary. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

On all-known form, we’re expecting that Clare and Cork will still be standing in championship 2016 come Saturday evening.

That would leave three confirmed teams in the All-Ireland quarter-finals – Clare, Cork and Galway – with the losers of Sunday’s Munster final between Tipperary and Waterford to join them.

After some early summer shadow-boxing, the hurling season looks set to finally ignite next weekend with sheer knock-out fare in Thurles.

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