So it’s time for the last six to be whittled down to the last four, and this is when you can really feel the championship heat up. It is now when counties will try and get a bit momentum going that will hopefully carry them all the way to September. Kilkenny and Tipperary are patiently waiting in the wings for whoever comes out on top tommorrow so now would be a good time to give the big Two a reason to be concerned. Everyone is tipping a Kilkenny/Tipperary All Ireland final, but there is every chance that Galway, Clare, Wexford or Waterford can put a spanner in the works. The journey starts tommorrow. I’m not going to make any predictions, I’ll let Richard do that. However I am excited to see what will unfold. Scroll below to see what our guest pundit has to say and enjoy.
P.S Make sure to keep an eye on the blog later this week for new content from myself.
See you soon,
A GOOD WEEKEND LIES IN STORE FOR BANNER AND DEISE.
This Sunday in Thurles sees an intriguing quarter-final double-header with the quartet in action all on a mission. There are many questions to be answered – can Waterford bounce back from their Munster Final trimming, will Galway have answer to their latest setback at the hands of the Cats, have Clare the capacity to improve on their Limerick effort, will Wexford’s graph continue to rise?
Waterford are strong favourites to beat near-neighbours Wexford in the opener. The Deise were impressive in their Munster semi-final defeat of the Banner and were tipped by many pundits to beat Tipp last time out. However, they were easily swatted aside in the end by a rampant Premier County. Whether it was the pressure of the occasion, the weather, their lack of familiarity with the Gaelic Grounds compared to, Thurles, it is hard to pinpoint exactly the reason for such a defeat and it will be a strong test of their character to see if they can put that behind them and reach the last four semi-final for a second successive year.
There were encouraging signs, three days after the Munster Final, their Under-21’s – who fielded Austin Gleeson, Shane Bennett, Patrick Curran and Tom Devine from the seniors – and beat Clare by eighteen points.
Meanwhile, Liam Dunne’s crew have recovered strongly from their thirteen-point reverse to Dublin in May. The six week gap from their first qualifier and the fact that it was in Wexford Park definitely can be seen to have helped in the rehabilitation process. The return of the gifted Lee Chin from injury can also not be under-estimated.
A good win over Offaly restored some confidence ahead of their clash with a fragile Cork outfit two weeks ago. The Slaneysiders went seven points up during the first-half but when they went a point down with eight minutes left few would have fancied their chances. However, they showed impressive resolve to hit six of the next eight points and clinch a well-deserved three point win.
They will quietly fancy their chances of kicking on now again and can also point to a win over the Deise in the championship two years ago, albeit they have had a high turnover since then through injuries and retirements, while their most recent clash was a League quarter-final last April which went right to the wire with Waterford edging matters by a point.
Jamesie O’Connor is firmly backing the Deise, going so far as to say he would bet his house on them winning! I think the match will be a lot closer than the bookies’ odds suggest but in the heel of the hunt, Waterford’s form over the season has been more consistent and they can get home by four points.
The second game between Clare and Galway is seen as the more evenly balanced. The Banner have only lost one match to date this season but their form seems to have regressed since their League Final success. Add in the loss of Conor McGrath and Clare’s lack of a sustained goal threat, with the exception of their win over Laois, and there are grounds for concern. However, they have been boosted by the return of David McInerney who has added a meaner look to their defence.
The Tribesmen, on the other hand, have had a disappointing season so far with relegation and a seven point defeat to their old foes from the Nore in the Leinster Final. That last statistic however does not tell the whole story, far from it, as Galway led by five points at one stage in the first-half and had Kilkenny looking shaky at the back and making unforced errors. This writer thinks they need to start Jason Flynn on Sunday as he has pace and an eye for goal which the Westerners lacked three weeks ago with only one real goal chance created. There is also surely more to come from Joe Canning who, while solid from frees the last day, did not really impose himself on the game in the way that he can.
This is another close call but I just feel Clare are in a slightly better place at the moment and probably feel under less pressure than the Galway players given all the negative press they have received for ousting Anthony Cunningham. In their last championship meeting, at this same stage three years ago, the Banner won by six points. This time around, I give a hesitant vote to Davy Fitz’s crew to emerge as victors again (and hopefully Davy will make a full recovery and be able to take his place on the line Sunday).
Enjoy the games, and let’s hope we have two games to saviour, the hurling championship is in need of a lift-off!