Tipp and Clare, teams with so much to prove, meet in historic game in Cork

Eamonn Wynne

Reporter:

Eamonn Wynne

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ewynne@nationalist.ie

Tipperary play Clare in All-Ireland Hurling quarter-final

John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer is part of a lethal Tipperary full forward line.

Saturday's all-Munster All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final promises to be a great occasion at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, although the losers won't leave with happy memories of their first visit to the redeveloped Cork venue.

The respective management teams will be conscious that their players will need to concentrate solely on the game and avoid the distractions that will accompany the reopening of the Leeside stadium and the return of championship hurling to Cork for the first time in three years.  

The home county will have an involvement in the shape of referee Colm Lyons, and the Nemo Rangers clubman will get the historic fixture underway at 3pm. 

The curtain-raiser at 1pm is the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship quarter-final between Clare and Galway.

The main event is a game that pits Tipperary, the defending All-Ireland champions, against a Clare side that was beaten by Cork in the Munster Final. 

Tipp may be the McCarthy Cup holders, but since the spring their reputation has been bruised by a heavy defeat by Galway in the National League Final; a Munster championship defeat by Cork and an unconvincing display in the All-Ireland qualifiers' victory over Westmeath three weeks ago.

However two weeks ago they destroyed Dublin in the qualifier at Semple Stadium with a display that suggested they had rediscovered their mojo.

Even allowing for the poverty of Dublin's performance - and it was pretty bad -  a sense of unity and purpose that hadn't been witnessed for quite some time was evident throughout the Tipp ranks.

They displayed a ruthless streak that impressed manager Michael Ryan by scoring 6-26.

The full forward line of Seamus Callanan, John McGrath and 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer went to town, scoring the grand total of 5-17 between them.

That haul included contributions of 3-11 from Seamus Callanan (3-4 from play) and 2-2 from John McGrath. 'Bubbles' chipped in with four points from play, and while he scored less than Callanan and McGrath the Killenaule player looked sharp and focused from start to finish, shooting one of the scores of the game when he steered the ball over his shoulder and between the posts in the fourth minute, and then laying on the sixth goal for Seamus Callanan at the end of normal time. 

Patrick 'Bonner' Maher wasn't on the scoresheet against Dublin, although typically his unselfish workrate allowed the others to prosper. 

Michael Breen was another player who looked more like his old self against Dublin, racing clear for a goal at the beginning of the second half, as he and his centrefield partner Brendan Maher dominated. 

Equally, the concession of 1-19 in that game will have been noted, especially the ease with which Dublin breached Tipp's defence on a few occasions in the first half especially.

The Tipp rearguard isn't over-endowed with pace - Ronan Maher and Tomás Hamill are unquestionably fine defenders - yet forwards with a burst of speed can cause them problems.

James Barry won an All Star award at full back last year but he hasn't looked as comfortable in the corner of the defence. 

Going into the game on the back of two victories, Tipp should be in a better place mentally than Clare although the Banner, like their opponents, have lots to prove in this championship.

They lost out to Cork by 5 points, 1-25 to 1-20, in the Munster Final.

That was a game that showed that Tony Kelly is still struggling to rediscover the form that won him the Hurler and Young Hurler of the Year awards four years ago.

Players such as Shane O'Donnell, Conor McGrath and Aaron Shanagher carry plenty of threat in attack but they were fairly starved of possession against Cork, with ball after ball sailing over their heads, and all too often wide of the posts.

Clare, therefore, will need to create a better supply line to their forwards if they're to hurt Tipp.  

Their defence too will need to be at the top of their game to contain Tipp's attack if it strikes form.

It all points towards a close encounter by the Lee, although if they can remain on an upward trajectory and play to their potential Tipp should have just about enough to get them through to an All-Ireland semi-final.