Weekend previews




All-Ireland SHC Qualifiers, Phase Two

Clare v Dublin, Cusack Park, Ennis, 7pm – Live on TV3

Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Offaly)

If this comes down to a battle of who can best shake off the last day, then the soundings in the build-up would seem to favour Clare.

Dublin may well have picked themselves off the floor but if they have, they’re doing their best to hide it under a bushel. Even allowing for the usual talking down, Dublin have presented a grim and depressed face to the world since the Kilkenny defeat. Reality seems to have bitten pretty hard.

By contrast, Clare have plenty of call to have their tails up. Missing out on the Munster final was a punch to the gut but it at least gave a broad hint that there was more to come. If Davy Fitzgerald’s side can draw a decent crowd into Ennis tonight, the welcome for Dublin will be flame-grilled. Cusack Park isn’t exactly the sort of terrain you want to be covering on your first time getting back on the horse.

Fitzgerald is likely to start Darach Honan in the attack to lighten the scoring load landed on John Conlon and Conor McGrath. The Waterford dressingroom was delighted when they heard Honan wasn’t starting in the Munster semi-final and it’s an omission Fitzgerald can’t afford to make too often.

As for Anthony Daly, he has already said Conal Keaney and Conor McCormack will be given as long as they need this morning to prove their fitness.

In the normal run of things, you’d expect Dublin to make it through, even if neither Keaney nor McCormack manage to. But this isn’t the normal run of things – Dublin haven’t beaten anyone of note in almost a year.

In Daly’s fourth season, that’s close to unthinkable. He won’t accept fizzling out of the championship at this early stage and if his time with them has meant anything you wouldn’t expect his players to either. Dublin to win.

Cork v Offaly, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7pm Referee: Michael Wadding (Waterford)

No soft-handing in JBM’s lion-cub revolution. Eoin Cadogan’s departure was the perfect opportunity for the Cork manager to slide a little experience into his team in the shape of John Gardiner at centre back or even Seán Óg at wing back with William Egan moving to the middle. But he’s done no such thing. Christopher Joyce has made the grade, with Cian McCarthy coming in at wing-forward to bring the average age down even further. Ballsy stuff all round.

There will be stiffer tests ahead than what they’ll see from Offaly tonight. Ollie Baker’s side gifted Galway a 10-point start the last day and can’t afford anything similar happening here. However tight they keep it, it won’t be tight enough.

CORK: A Nash; S ONeill, B Murphy, C OSullivan; T Kenny, C Joyce, W Egan; D Sweetnam, L McLoughlin; C Lehane, C McCarthy, P Cronin; J Coughlan, P OSullivan, P Horgan.

OFFALY: E Kelly; C Hernon, D Kenny, J Rigney; D Morkan, R Hanniffy, D Horan; K Brady, S Ryan; C Egan, C Mahon, B Murphy; S Dooley, J Bergin, B Carroll.


Ulster SHC final

Antrim v Derry, Casement Park, 3.30 Referee: Tony Carroll (Offaly)
The comings and goings in the Antrim management team, allied to the 32-point hiding they took off Limerick last week, has left morale at rock-bottom. They’re a class or two above Derry but given the circumstances, this will be closer than people think.

ANTRIM: DD Quinn; J Campbell, N McGarry, A Graffan; M Herron, N McAuley, J Campbell; B McAuley, S McNaughton; E McCloskey, C Carson, P Shiels; L Watson, N McManus, B McFall.


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