Conor McGrath awaits winner of Munster quarter-final

Clare’s All Star forward watches with interest but has no preference between Cork and Waterford in semi-final

Cork or Waterford? Or Waterford or Cork? Conor McGrath says it doesn't matter either way, because as far as Clare are concerned neither team will present any easier a prospect come June 15th.

Still there's no denying that should Cork emerge from Sunday's Munster hurling quarter-final in Thurles – and they are marginal favourites – then a rematch of their All-Ireland final with Clare, who are awaiting the winners in the semi-final, would at least make for a more appetising prospect for both teams.

For McGrath, one of Clare’s eight All Star winners on the back of last summer’s All-Ireland win, it’s a difficult enough game to call, anyway, and he’s certainly familiar enough with both teams: Clare beat Waterford in last year’s Munster quarter-final before losing to Cork in the semi-final: of course they met again in the All-Ireland final, drawing firstly, before Clare eventually won out in the replay.

“Well I’d certainly expect it to be a very good game on Sunday,” says McGrath, who struck a combined 1-5 in the three meetings against Cork last summer, and 1-0 in the game against Waterford. “We just about got over Waterford last year, in a very tight game, in the quarter-final, after getting a few points late on to beat them by a few points.

"This year Waterford have brought on a lot of exciting young players. They won the All-Ireland minor last year, and I think like Clare over the last number of years, are ready to start bringing some of those minors on, and I think they will come strong. They still have a couple of unbelievable players in there still like Kevin Moran, and Michael "Brick" Walsh.

“And I don’t think I need to talk about Cork at all, after the great battles we had last year. So whoever does come through will be a huge test. I wouldn’t say we’d have any preference about who we play. In the championships last year, we were beaten once by Cork, also drew, and also beat them.

"So I'd say we're very evenly matched, and the same goes for the seven or eight top teams in the country. We wouldn't be too worried about what stage of the championship it is that we have to play Cork." Greater expectations What is certain, McGrath agrees, is that there are far greater expectations surrounding Clare this summer compared to 2013, when their All-Ireland winning credentials were hardly recognised until after their semi-final win over Limerick.

“Yeah things are majorly different, there’s no point in saying otherwise. This time last year, I don’t think anyone was thinking of us. We weren’t thinking much either. We were just trying to win a match in a Munster championship for the first time in a number of years.

“We’re a bit later back training this year, than other years, but we’re happy enough with how the league went. Obviously we have a bit of catching up to do with the rest of them but we’re looking forward to seeing how we do against Cork or Waterford in a few weeks’ time, then take it from there.”

However it has been said that Clare need to win the Munster title this year to ultimately better 2013, and McGrath agrees that goes without saying, especially as they'd rather steer well clear of the qualifier route: "Yeah, and the fact that we didn't ever get to a Munster final last year makes getting there a big goal this time. Ideally, we want to go the direct route and that starts with Cork or Waterford. I don't think it really matters who we're playing really. They're both really strong teams. It'll be a big battle whoever it is. 'Up for grabs' "But we know we'll need to improve as well. We want new players coming in to take spots or the old players to improve. It's up to the individual players but Davy Fitzgerald and the lads have shown whoever is playing on form will be getting a game. There's spots up for grabs. It'll be interesting to see who gets to start."