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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 23 February, 2019

Step back in time for Tipp and Clare as they prepare to renew hostilities at Páirc Uí Chaoimh

A former rivalry is set to be renewed when the two counties clash in senior championship hurling for the first time since 2011.

IT WAS A contrasting hurling weekend for Tipperary and Clare, who were drawn out of the All-Ireland quarter-final draw hat this morning.

For champions Tipp, they got the show firmly back on the road by smashing 6-26 past Dublin in a one-sided qualifier rout at Semple Stadium on Saturday.

A day later, Clare fell to a five-point Munster final loss to Cork but there were positives to emerge.

They registered 15 wides, missed a penalty and had two goal efforts smack off the woodwork.

Become more clinical, and Clare might have a big say in the race yet, as joint-manager Donal Moloney has vowed they will.

But Tipp will present huge opposition for what’s still an emerging outfit.

As our hurling analyst Tommy Dunne pointed out in his excellent piece today, Clare are still a work in progress.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

They were wasteful in possession against Cork yesterday and seemed to deviate from some of the good facets of their play that served them well in the Munster semi-final victory over Limerick.

On that occasion, Clare mixed up the long and short ball well, but they seemed overly-focused on trying to stop Anthony Nash’s puck-outs yesterday, and under-estimated the ability of Cork’s defenders to hurl.

Allowed so much primary possession from Nash, Damien Cahalane showed that he’s much more than an increasingly efficient defender. He can also use the ball, and use it well.

Tipp have plenty of players in this mould and how Clare set up against them will determine how successful they’ll be.

Clare bosses Moloney and Gerry O’Connor will be conscious of the threat posed by Tipp’s lethal inside men Seamus Callanan, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and John McGrath.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

They posted 2-21 between them in last year’s All-Ireland final victory over Kilkenny and looked back to something approaching their best against Dublin on Saturday, racking up a combined haul of 5-17.

Callanan was particularly good, taking a highly-rated full-back in Eoghan O’Donnell to the cleaners.

A week previously, Callanan was well-held by Westmeath’s Tommy Doyle, and whipped off early in the second half, but that seems to have stung him into life.

McGrath came off the bench in the Westmeath game, scored 1-1 and earned a starting berth again.

He delivered on Saturday with 2-2 from play, while O’Dwyer was a revelation.

The Killenaule man looked the hungriest he’s been all year and while he’s a player who’s sometimes been labelled selfish, there was none of that on show at the weekend.

Case in point was his set-up for Callanan’s hat-trick goal late on. O’Dwyer could have went himself but squared for his fellow inside man, who found the net.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Defensively, Tipp had their wobbly moments, susceptible to Dublin runners from deep in the first half, while also coughing up goal chances.

Clare have player who can hurt them in this regard but some of their big players, Tony Kelly most notably, haven’t sparkled yet this summer.

The knock-out nature of what’s left in the championship could well spark a revival, however, and Tipp won’t fancy the prospect of the pace that’s coming their way.

On the flipside of that, a Clare defence exposed by the skill levels of the Cork forwards they faced on Sunday won’t be relishing the prospect of facing up to Tipp’s much-vaunted attackers.

Tony Kelly and Darragh Fitzgibbon Tony Kelly (left) is searching for top form this summer. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

On the form we’ve seen this weekend, you’d have to fancy Tipp right now but form is fickle too.

A week before, Tipp were poor against Westmeath but you’d have to suggest now that it was a case of not being able to get themselves up for a game that, deep down, they knew they were going to win even if they under-performed.

Tipp will feel they have momentum now while Clare face the challenge of picking themselves up after missing the chance to win the county’s first Munster senior crown since 1998.

They’re wounded but not mortally so, yet.

Traditionally, this fixture has been one to whet the appetite, and this latest meeting should be another cracker.

The Páirc Uí Chaoimh element will bring a novel feel to it and it’s a return to a venue, albeit revamped, where the counties fought out so many gripping battles in the 90s and 2000s.

Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

It’s the first time they’ll have met in championship hurling since the 2011 Munster semi-final, when Tipp won by 4-19 to 1-19 (Callanan scoring 1-5).

The more scattered nature of the championship tussles between them has helped to dilute the nasty rivalry that existed in the late 90s.

It reached  a real peak in 1999, when the counties met in a Munster U21 final in Ennis, and the game was marred by a sideline brawl.

It will be hot and heavy on 22 July for sure, and only one team will remain standing in championship 2017 at full-time.

Victory for either side would mark them out as rejuvenated All-Ireland contenders, and looking ahead to the last four.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Winner takes all, Banner against the Premier. Roll on Saturday week.

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