Tipp and Clare to cross swords at new look Pairc Ui Chaoimh

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Tipp and Clare to cross swords at new look Pairc Ui Chaoimh thumbnailTipperary fans will be hoping that John McGrath can find the Clare net in the same way as he did against Cork earlier in the championship.

NEXT Saturday, Tipperary and Clare will cross swords when they meet in the newly refurbished Pairc Ui Chaoimh on the banks of the River Lee.

It will be the first hurling encounter between two counties in the new redesigned ground with the Cork capital out of bounds since Cork beat Limerick in the Munster final in 2014.

The old Pairc Ui Chaoimh was the scene of some titanic clashes between Tipp and Clare especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s when there was a fierce rivalry between the sides.

Clare were at their height in the late 1990s but Tipp took over from 2000 and between 2000 and 2017 the teams met seven times and Tipp won six.

It's six years since the teams last met in the senior hurling championship. Back then the All-Ireland champions, Tipperary overcome a slow start to beat Clare by 4-19 to 1-19 in the Munster semi final at the Gaelic Grounds. That slow start was a reminder to the All-Ireland champions that retaining All-Ireland titles don't come easy.

The recovery by Declan Ryan's men began and goals by Eoin Kelly, Patrick Maher and Lar Corbett helped Tipp to a 3-7 to 1-10 half time lead. The second half was easier on the heart pulse and towards the end Seamus Callanan added goal number four.

Six of Tipp's starting fifteen are on the panel at the moment including John O'Keeffe, Michael Cahill, Padraic Maher, Patrick Maher, Seamus Callanan and Noel McGrath. On the Clare side you have Cian Dillon, Patrick O'Connor, Patrick Donnellan, John Conlon, Darrach Honan and Conor McGrath who made his championship debut that day June 19.

Tipp went on to win back the Munster final when accounting for Waterford in the decider. However the same could not be said about the Tipp minors that same year. Seemingly, five days later, a star studded Clare side beat Tipp by 3-13 to 1-13 at Limerick once again.

We said it was a star studded Clare side with players like Jack Browne, Seadna Morey, Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly, Peter Duggan Shane O'Donnell and Aaron Cunningham on the team. Tony Kelly scored four points, two from play and Colm Galvin added 1-1 to combine 1-5 from a midfield pairing. Not bad.

But Tipp had their well known names such as John Meagher (Loughmore Castleiney), Jack Peters, Kilruane MacDonaghs and a solid half backline of Thomas Hamill, Jason Forde and Cathal Barrett. Tipperary footballer, Bill Maher lined out at midfield while Dan McCormack, John McGrath and Liam McGrath who scored 0-9 with seven points from frees. Both Barry Heffernan and Seamus Kennedy were introduced as subs.

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. Both sides have an All-Ireland success to reflect on. Tipp added two Munster finals in 2015 and 2016 but they failed to get past their quarter final meeting with Cork last May. Clare on the other hand won no Munster final but they reached the decider two weeks ago and lost to Cork by five points.

And as Clare reached the Munster final, Tipp made progress through the qualifiers with victories over Westmeath and Dublin.

The win over Dublin was the most pleasing performance for Mick Ryan's men since the league perfect performance against Kilkenny last March. Tipp beat a disappointing Dublin side with ease with the performances of Seamus Callanan, John O'Dwyer and John McGrath resembling that of the performances in 2016.

If Tipp have worries they must reflect on the return from the backline where Dublin showed some kinks in the Tipperary armoury. In fairness, to the Tipp management they have the nice problem of so many backmen but piecing together a backline that will be compatible to the starting six has to be worked out.

Remember they are up against a fine Clare front eight, a front eight that could have beaten Cork in the Munster decider. Had Clare produced a change of plan where instead of driving for long range points -which didn't work - and make provision for the inside forward line of Aaron Cunningham, Shane O'Donnell and Conor McGrath, it would have served them better. The half forward line of Cathal Malone, Paudge Collins and John Conlon have a hard work ethic while Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin are a midfield pairing to dream of.

When all is said and done, a fifty two year search for the retention of the All-Ireland final, perhaps the pressure has got to Tipp in that sphere. However one thing we do know is that if the Tipperary attack continues to seek the manner in which they played last year they have the ability to win and a three or four point winning margin might do.

Tipperary to win.


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