Unbeaten Tipp head into the lion's den in Ennis

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john.ocallaghan

It’s the re-match Tipperary supporters and players are waiting for. Remember last year when the teams met in the fourth round of the Munster senior hurling championship, Tipp were leading Clare at Semple Stadium. Suddenly there was a game changer. Remember, Jake Morris – close on goal - took a Cathal Barrett pass before striking the ball off the butt of the upright. Clare recovered and turned defence into attack before a string of passes led to Ian Galvin scoring Clare’s only goal.

With five minutes of normal time remaining the goal arrived at the right time for Clare and Tipp could not recover eventually losing out by 1-23 to 1-21. The win put Clare into the knockout stages and Tipp were left to rue what might have been and had eight months to think about it before the Munster league commenced which saw Tipp lose to Clare in the final.

When the Allianz Hurling League resumed the sides met in the opening round this time resulting in a Tipperary victory at Thurles.

Next Sunday its championship time and Tipp return the favour with a visit to Cusack Park Ennis, the first time the Clare capital will house a Clare v Tipp championship encounter since 1986.

Tipperary lost that day, a defeat that spelt the end of a disappointing sixteen years for Tipp as they failed to win a Munster final. Twelve months later Tipp drew with Clare in Killarney but returned to the Kerry venue for the replay and won handsomely.

Overall, Tipperary and Clare have met in fifty two championship games with Tipperary leading 36 wins to 12 while the sides shared parity on four occasions.

And while the 1980s spelt a revival for Tipp, the following decade was a spectacular affair between the counties. In that period, Clare had the Indian sign over Tipp with five wins out of ten encounters between 1994 and 2003. There was one draw.

From 2004 to the present day the teams met in five championship meetings with Tipp winning four before Clare won last year to bridge fifteen year gap without victory over the Premier.

This brings us nicely to next Sunday’s game. Tipperary enter the game on the back of two very good wins over Cork and Waterford. Both wins resulted in a plus twenty five scoring difference which could be enough to see Tipp through to the knockout stages without winning their remaining games provided they didn’t suffer heavy defeats in the process.

Liam Sheedy will want to put those results to bed and continue with another win. However that is easier said than done as any team who face Clare in Ennis know full well that it is a tough ask as Clare relish the comforts of home.

With the Bannersiders receiving a bye in round two, Clare need to win their second game following their opening round victory over Waterford in Walsh Park on May 12.

Just like Tipp, the jury is out in regards to Clare. That win against the Deise left many questions unanswered as Clare had to hold on tightly in the final minutes as Waterford found an extra gear and almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

John Conlon’s goal in the opening minutes of the Walsh Park meeting made all the difference but Waterford will suggest it was a very soft goal.

And while Tipp rue the miss by Jake Morris last year in Semple Stadium, there are many supporters of the Saffron and Blue who will also suggest that Clare were unlucky not to reach last year’s all-Ireland final following their semi final defeat to Galway.

The manner of Clare’s performances suggest there is a a lack of consistency and this has been the path since winning the all-Ireland final in 2013.

Clare have some marvellous players on their team with Tony Kelly, Peter Duggan and Shane O’Donnell a match for some of the great players of any other era. David McInerney, Seadna Morey, Conor Galvin and Pat O’Connor are dependable defenders and Tipperary’s forwards won’t be able to enjoy the freedom they received in the wins over Cork and Waterford recently.

A lot depends on what manager Liam Sheedy has up his sleeve because the Clare defence won’t stand on ceremony and few would expect them to do so.

Yet, if this writer was a Clare fan, he would fear very much with what Noel McGrath, John McGrath, Patrick Maher, John O’Dwyer and Michael Breen could do because Tipp have potential scorers no matter where they look.

One feels that last year was unkind to Michael Ryan (Tipp manager 2018) because they played their best game of the championship against Clare but lady luck didn’t shine on them. One wonders how things would have panned out if Tipp reached Croke Park.

One thing is for certain is that Tipp are hurling much better this year but many questions will be asked of Tipp’s defence. Cathal Barrett’s inclusion at corner back has certainly shored things up. Brendan Maher and company on the half backline haven’t put a foot wrong yet while Noel McGrath is so much at home at midfield and the subtle changes to the Tipp fifteen are making all the differences and that could enough to help Tipp get by on Sunday by a narrow margin.

2018

Tipperary 1-21 Clare 1-23 at Semple Stadium

Tipperary scorers: Jason Forde 0-10 (0-8f, 0-1’65); Billy McCarthy 1-0; J McGrath 0-3; S Callanan, N McGrath 0-2 each; R Maher, C Barrett, Padraic Maher 0-1 each.

Clare Scorers: P Duggan 0-16 (0-13f); Ian Galvin 1-0; P Collins 0-3; T Kelly 0-2; J Conlon and J Browne 0-1each.

TIPPERARY: Brian Hogan (Lorrha); Sean O’Brien (Newport), Seamus Kennedy (Saint Marys), Donagh Maher (Burgess); Joe O’Dwyer (Killenaule), Padraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) (Capt), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh); Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Cathal Barrett (Holycross); Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh),Patrick Maher (Lorrha), Billy McCarthy (Thurles Sarsfields); Seamus Callanan (Drom Inch), Jason Forde (Silvermines), John McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney). Subs: Noel McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney) for McCormack (8inj); Jake Morris (Nenagh Eire Og) for Patrick Maher (60; Alan Flynn (Kiladangan) for Joe O’Dwyer (60); Willie Connors (Kiladangan) for Brendan Maher (66inj); John O’Dwyer (Killenaule) for McCarthy (74).

CLARE: Donal Tuohy; Patrick O’Connor, David McInerney, Jack Browne; David Fitzgerald, Conor Cleary, Jamie Shanahan; Colm Galvin, Cathal Malone; Peter Duggan, Tony Kelly, David Reidy; Conor McGrath, John Conlon, Shane O’Donnell. Subs: Podge Collins for C McGrath (34); Seadna Morey for D Fitzgerald (47); Ian Galvin for D Reidy (58); Jason McGrath for Malone (61); Darragh Corry for C Galvin (63).

REFEREE: Paudie O’Dwyer (Carlow).

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