Clare v Waterford and Tipperary v Cork preview

Home » Clare v Waterford and Tipperary v Cork preview

Shane Stapleton looks ahead to Saturday’s two games in Round 4 of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship.

A little niggle goes a long way towards whetting the appetite.

We know that former square-fellows Davy Fitzgerald and Brian Lohan have fallen out of favour with one-another.

The duo played as a goalkeeper-full-back combination for Clare in five Munster finals, two league deciders, and three All-Ireland finals, but a Fitzgibbon Cup incident in 2014 soured relations.

Fitzgerald’s LIT team arrived through the bushes and warmed up on UL’s side of the field, and the bottom line is things have only deteriorated since.

“I don’t know if it’s genuine passion,” replied Lohan when once asked about his former teammate’s sideline antics.

“We’re all passionate about the game, but we don’t… we show it in different ways.

“He has the way he does things and people have to kind of fit into that. But I think some of the antics, they’re not great.”

Fitzgerald has seemingly tried to mend bridges and, after his Wexford side lost to Lohan’s Clare in 2021, said: “People said to me, would you ever talk to Brian Lohan or any of this. 

“I’ll tell you straight out, for the sake of Clare, 110% if someone got a meeting between me and Brian Lohan in the morning, I’d do it.”

That never materialised so we’ll have the popcorn out once more when Fitz’s Waterford lock horns with Lohan’s Banner this weekend. While both sides could yet progress from Munster, there is a chance to sink a nail deep into the other’s coffin.

The Deise had a very poor league campaign and while their manager continually advised critics to keep both their powder and ink dry until championship, there was a sense that his team were struggling.

Key players returned from injury, and combined with a more orthodox approach to tactics, they have garnered three points from four after beating Cork and drawing with Tipperary at Walsh Park.

The Banner were excellent throughout the spring and deservedly claimed the NHL title — a first since Fitzgerald was in charge in 2016 — and a brilliant opening 53 minutes put them nine points in front of Limerick.

They collapsed that day, but their response away to Cork — who of course gunned down the All-Ireland champions last weekend — was the fillup they needed. 

Yes, they were soldiers of fortune in how Sean O’Donoghue needlessly got sent off for Cork and how it was Damien Cahalane who had the last-second goal chance that could have won it for The Rebels, but you make your own luck too.

Feeling a weight of expectation has not always suited Clare but they look to be a team on a mission, and the fadeout against Limerick has them forewarned against any lapses in concentration.

While a double chance of ‘Draw or Waterford’ at 7/4 presents value, a winning margin of between one and three points for Clare at 4/1 might be the smarter option.

Dublin +6 at 8/11 against Kilkenny looks a decent bet given the injury issues afflicting Derek Lyng’s team of late.

Should Michael Donoghue pull off a masterstroke, it would amount to a week of historical significance for The Cats: drawing with Carlow, losing to Offaly Under-20s (a first defeat to them in any grade since 2007), and a reversal against the capital putting their senior championship in jeopardy.

Lyng cannot contemplate that outcome, and of course the record books would warn against a Dublin win at Parnell Park. When last the teams met at this venue in championship, a run of 2-11 to 0-3 in the final 23 minutes fed into a 17-point win for Brian Cody’s troops. It should be tighter this time around.

An accusation regularly levelled at Tipperary is that they lack pace and athleticism, which should open up opportunities for Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Barrett and Alan Connolly, among others. 

The notion extends to one-on-one defending and how Liam Cahill will eventually run out of match-ups if Cork can play this match on their terms — ie turn it into an open game where they have space to run into.

Without question, this creates an issue for Tipp on their home patch of Semple Stadium, but let’s not forget that Cork have conceded 3-26 in each of the last two games, and 2-25 in the outing before that. Let’s average that out at 2-28, and imagine this as an opportunity for the likes of Jake Morris, Mark Kehoe and Co.

The truth is that Tipperary have not hit anywhere near their potential so far in the championship, and that’s within the general acceptance that they’re not considered a contender right now. They look short on confidence, are missing from play and are just 60% on scoreable frees in their last three games, and the likes of Morris and Jason Forde have been unusually off-colour. But it takes just a spark.

That could come in the form of punishing a Cork half-back line that is not designed to defend. Mark Coleman, Tim O’Mahony and Rob Downey — who all started against Limerick — are fine hurlers and Downey in particular is a monster in the air, but he is not quick on the turn and the other two are not the most tigerish of defenders.

O’Donoghue is a brilliant back but his confidence must be a little ropey after coughing up two turnovers that led to Seamus Flanagan goals last weekend. They have had defenders sent off in the first two rounds of the championship, and while credit must go to manager Pat Ryan for ensuring Eoin Downey didn’t make it a hat-trick when subbing him after 23 minutes against the Treaty, it was a reminder that they can be got at.

So will we see Morris and Kehoe control ball on the spin first-time in Thurles, and make hay? If they do, goals are there to be had, and the sun can shine again for Tipperary.

Now the flipside is that Cork of Munster 2024 will punish you if given the chance, evidenced by their 68% scoring return from 123 attempts thus far in Munster.

They have mustered 17 goal attempts in that, and of course they would like to improve on seven scored, but getting through so often highlights their threat.

When these sides last met at Semple Stadium two years ago, Noel McGrath hit the post with a penalty after 11 minutes which would have put his team seven points in front, but instead The Rebels went straight up the other end and hit a major of their own through Connolly.

What ensued was a collapse by Tipp and it ended the tenure of Colm Bonnar. It was a dispiriting display, and the truth was that Cork could have won by more.

The sides played out a pulsating draw last year and it should be a close-run — if high-scoring — affair once more.

Tipp to win by 1-3 points at 9/2 or Cork to sneak it is 7/2 — it should be a toss of a coin no matter who you fancy. We’ll say The Premier, who are chasing a first Semple win in championship since 2019, on the basis that the Rebels will do very well to rouse themselves to the same levels as against Limerick.

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