Missing some key forwards, Clare won't match Limerick hurlers' scoring threat

Missing some key forwards, Clare won't match Limerick hurlers' scoring threat

Cork's Robert Downey, Eoin Cadogan and Sean O'Donoghue block Aaron Gillane of Limerick in last year's meeting. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

SUNDAY: Munster SHC: quarter-final: Limerick v Clare, Gaelic Grounds, 4pm

YOU could say these two picked the short straw, being lumbered with the extra game in what is potentially a hugely competitive provincial championship.

Obviously, one of them will secure the important bragging rights which are so important between these close neighbours, but they will have very little time to dwell on their success with All-Ireland champions Tipperary waiting for them in the semi-final.

Win that, which will be a very tall order again, and they’ll still be only in a Munster final with Cork or Waterford awaiting.

So the path to provincial glory for both sides here is strewn with plenty of hazards.

But it’s first things first on Sunday and whoever does emerge will have the advantage of a full-blown Munster championship clash behind them going in to face Tipperary who will be coming in cold.

There is no form guide really to go on in this game. It has been a year like no other and it’s well over seven months now since both had a competitive game.

That was in the league and both had very successful campaigns before the Covid crisis halted everything.

Both were top of their respective groups when things ended back in March and as a result the GAA decreed that this Munster opener would double up as the league final.

So there will be a trophy to take home on Sunday night for the winner, but one believes that there won’t be too much shouting from the rooftops over that.

All that matters here is progress to the Munster semi-final and that meeting with Tipperary.

In advance of the game, which will be played in front of empty stands and terraces, the consensus seems to be that Limerick will have the upper hand.

Their form in the league before its closure was hugely impressive and also the fact that Clare will be without some key players for various reasons, mainly John Conlon, Podge Collins, and Peter Duggan.

That will put an extra onus of responsibility on Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell, Jack Browne, David McInerney, Ryan Taylor, and Colin Guilfoyle.

Tony Kelly of Clare taking on Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Tony Kelly of Clare taking on Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

New team boss, Brian Lohan will provide greater energy from the line and he’s all too familiar with these big championship days.

They had some big wins in the league and they got a fine draw in Nowlan Park.

However, Limerick went one better, taking maximum points from their five games, seeing off Tipperary, Galway, and Cork en-route.

Injuries to Richie English and Mike Casey are a blow, although English will be on the bench.

And it’s generally accepted that they have the greater resources coming off the bench than most of the other counties.

They were desperately disappointed in losing to Kilkenny last season and since the last whistle that day there has been a massive focus and determination to make amends.

Right throughout the field, they are assertive, players like Dan Morrissey, Declan Hannon, Diarmuid Byrnes, Tom Morrissey, Kyle Hayes, Gearoid Hegarty, Graeme Mulcahy, and Aaron Gillane are among the country’s best.

Clare will not easily succumb here, not with Lohan in charge, but they don’t appear to carry the artillery, particularly in attack that Limerick possess and a few recent challenge games were disappointing for them.

Clare will need a very positive start and be in the game by half-time, but all the smart money will be going on the All-Ireland champions of two years ago to take the first step on the road back.

Can’t or won’t oppose Limerick here.

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