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5 questions as Munster and Leinster SHC round-robins reach exciting conclusion

Shoiuld Clare play a weakened team, can Cork string two good performances together and who’ll survive in Leinster?

1. Should Clare rest players against Waterford?

tony-kelly Clare star Tony Kelly. Source: Tom Maher/INPHO

CLARE ARE ALREADY assured of their place in the Munster final. Heading into the final game against Waterford, Brian Lohan faces a dilemma. Does he play a weakened team and put the likes of Tony Kelly in bubble wrap ahead with one eye on the provincial decider against Limerick?

Clare can ill-afford to lose Kelly, Peter Duggan or Shane O’Donnell to injury, but with a two-week gap to the Limerick game is it really necessary to rest elite players in the height of the summer?

On the Banner team named last night, Kelly was the notable absentee.

That’s a decision Lohan would have been ruminating over this week. You can be sure any players carrying knocks won’t feature. The other side of it is why would the Banner give up an opportunity to put All-Ireland contenders Waterford out of the championship?

Clare are unbeaten after three games and they risk losing momentum if they try to box too clever here. 

2. Can Cork back it up?

After a desperately poor to the championship, the Rebels were low on confidence when they turned their season around in Waterford. It was a huge performance given the circumstances they found themselves in after their opening two games.

Kieran Kingston’s team now have progression in their own hands.

Victory over Tipperary will guarantee them a third place finish in Munster. They made tweaks against the Deise that helped engineer a turnaround in their fortunes. Luke Meade was restored to midfield while Ciaran Joyce solidified things at centre-back.

Tim O’Mahony’s impact as a 40th minute replacement for Patrick Horgan at full-forward helped Cork’s ball-winning ability on the inside line. Alan Connolly showed his lethal finishing ability. 

Most importantly, they showed great fight and desire. The challenge for Cork now is to string two such displays together against Tipperary, who have nothing to lose. 

killian-doyle-celebrates-at-full-time-as-a-wexford-supporter-looks-for-an-autograph Westmeath’s Killian Doyle celebrates after the draw with Wexford. Source: Ashley Cahill/INPHO

3. Who’ll prevail in Leinster’s battle for survival?

Westmeath look in good stead to retain their place in Leinster’s top flight. Last weekend’s stirring late draw with Wexford was one of the best days in Westmeath hurling history, but it will count for little if they fail to beat Laois this evening. 

The O’Moore County have made a habit of pulling out a result when it matters most. In Division 1B earlier this year, they lost their opening four games by a heavy margin. Antrim went down fighting against Kilkenny, Dublin and Waterford, only to suffer a narrow loss to Laois in a game most expected them to win. 

The difference this time is Laois are badly struggling with injuries. Cheddar Plunkett’s list of absentees sits in double figures, with Cha Dwyer, Mark Dowling and Ciaran McEvoy the latest players to join the injury list. 

Joe Fortune’s team will be determined to follow up last weekend’s result with a victory to finish their Leinster campaign on a high. 

4. Wexford and Dublin look to bounce back 

For two teams that enjoyed high-flying league campaigns, Wexford and Dublin’s seasons have tailed off considerably since. 

The nature of Dublin’s second-hall collapse against Kilkenny was alarming. Wexford’s draw with Westmeath was even more concerning. 

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Both counties put out very consistent team selections during the Division 1 campaign, with Wexford topping Group A and Dublin finishing joint-second in Group B. 

Perhaps they’ve ran out of steam or the other counties were keeping their powder dry for the summer. Either way, Darragh Egan and Mattie Kenny have major issues to rectify as they travel to Kilkenny and Galway respectively.

Dublin’s one-point defeat of the Model County in round 2 means they know a result in Galway will preserve their championship involvement. A victory will see them into the Leinster final. Wexford know if they beat Kilkenny, they’ll advance in third. 

cathal-barrett Tipperary and Cathal Barrett are still in the race for the Liam MacCarthy. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Could Tipp shock us all?

Might there be one more twist in this Munster campaign? Tipperary were on a bye-week but Cork’s defeat of Waterford suddenly gave them a glimmer of hope.

The Premier know that progression is still unlikely. They must beat Cork, hope Clare do likewise against Waterford and overturn the scoring difference on the Rebels and Deise to leapfrog above them.

Colm Bonnar’s team gave a good account of themselves against Limerick the last day out, but it would take a clinical 70-minute performance here to save their championship lives.  

To see the full permutations for this weekend’s games, click here.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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