Tuesday, 21st August 2018
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Clare are wounded and dangerous

Following some slightly unexpected results in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship last weekend with Cork and Limerick claiming the scalps of Clare and Tipperary respectively, Waterford enter the competition and face the Banner in Ennis on Sunday next.

Cusack Park has never been a happy hunting ground as far as the Deise are concerned and Clare, with championship game, albeit a defeat, behind them will be wounded and very dangerous.

That said I fully expect that Derek McGrath and his management team will have left no stone unturned and in the weeks since the Allianz National League will have thoroughly prepared for this opening fixture.

On so many occasions the management have stressed that the Championship is the main focus and I believe, following some excellent challenge and trial games, that the lads are now ready and it is our time.

Waterford fortunes did not fall in our favour in the League camapign.

However as the competition progressed there was a huge improvement in performance culminating in a win over Clare in Walsh Park 1-23 to 1-20.

That followed a win over Cork on Leeside 1-20 to 1-15.

Waterford faced the Rebels again on Leeside in a league relegation playoff and this time Cork came through on a 0-21 to 1-13 scoreline.

Not having the Waterford team released as yet I would expect that Derek McGrath and his management will put much of their faith in the majority of players who featured in the All-Ireland campaign in 2017.

Recent games have shown that the present group is exceptionally strong and a number of the extended panel are certainly "putting up their hands" for inclusion.

With Kieran and Shane Bennett unavailable for selection the plans will have been adjusted and it wouldn't surprise if a debutant or two came into the starting lineup.

As of now however there has been little indication of a major change.

Ballygunner custodian Stephen O'Keeffe will man the last line of defence.

He has proven on more than one occasion that he the best shotstopper in the game.

Mount Sion's Ian O'Regan with his experience is a huge backup and has on every occasion answered the call.

Outside him clubmate Barry Coughlan will man the edge of the square with Noel Connors and Shane Fives in the corners.

The superb Tadhg de Burca must surely play that sweeper role once again and will be flanked by Philip Mahony and Austin Gleeson.

It may well be that the latter, a former player of the year, will start as a regular centre back with Darragh.

Fives brought back in defence to form a near impregnable half line.

Jamie Barron and clubmate Conor Gleeson may well operate in the engine room midfield as both players have an enormous capacity to win ball.

Up front Waterford have some really excellent options.

Pauric Mahony from Ballygunner will more than likely lead the attack.

The freetaker will punish any indiscretion in the Clare defence with his superb accuracy from placed balls.

Team captain Kevin Moran can play in defence or attack and will be a link from one to the other.

Moran also, as he has shown on many occasions, has the ability to get forward for goals.

With a wealth of taslent at their finger tips the selectors will have to make choices.

Stephen Bennett, Patrick Curran, Maurice Shanahan, Jake Dillon, Michael Walsh, Colin Dunford,Tommy Ryan, Brian O'Halloran, Mikey Kearney and the rest of the panel will all be looking for one of those precious places in the starting fifteen.

WHAT OF CLARE Perhaps surprisingly beaten by Cork last weekend the Banner will be a huge obstacle at home on their favoured Cusack Park turf.

The Clare faithful travelled to Cork in their thousands expecting a winning start to the group style Munster Championship.

The men from West of the Shannon performed well in patches against the Rebels and will be only too well aware that another defeat would seriously jeopardise their chances of progressing.

In goalkeeper Donal Tuohy they have, like Waterford, a serious shotstopper.

The spine of their team from number three Conor Cleary, centre back David McInerney, midfielders Colm Galvin and former player of the year Tony Kelly, centre forward John Conlon and number fourteen, freetaker Peter Duggan all carry a wealth of experience.

Add in the likes of defenders Seadna Morey and David Fitzgerald along with established forwards Shane O'Donnell, Conor McGrath and the lively David reidy and one can immediately see that managers Donal Moloney/Gerry O'Connor have a strong base.

At the end of the day I expect that Waterford will come through.

It may be nervewrecking but the panel will play a huge part.

Times for a 3.30pm start I expect we will be "happy travellers" on the homeward journey.


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