Hurling previews: Wexford and Limerick can go for broke

Provincial runners-up both face serious challenges to make last four

 

SATURDAY

All-Ireland SHC quarter-final

Clare v Wexford, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 3.0 (RTÉ 1)

This has the appearance of a slow bicycle race in that both teams finished their provincial championships on very downbeat notes.

Having apparently buried their track record of under-achievement since winning the 2013 All-Ireland, Clare were hugely disappointing in the Munster final when squandering the proceeds of a dominant first half and the inability to stem the Cork tide afterwards was damning. With the luminous exception of John Conlon, their forwards haven’t been wholly convincing and even Peter Duggan’s previously gold-standard free taking malfunctioned against Cork.

Yet Wexford, by most metrics, have fallen back since last year – having been overtaken again by Kilkenny and without a keynote victory all year apart maybe from the league quarter-final against a semi-interested Galway. There is little doubt that Davy Fitzgerald will have thrown the kitchen sink at preparations to turn over his former team but have Wexford the wherewithal?

Their first half in Nowlan Park a month ago took Kilkenny to the brink but the second half facilitated a 10-point turnaround. They need a recovery in form from Lee Chin and more composure/better shot selection in attack. There’s no doubting Clare’s potential but then there never is. Wexford have a chance.

Verdict: Wexford

SUNDAY

All-Ireland SHC quarter-final

Kilkenny v Limerick, Semple Stadium, 2.0 (Live, RTÉ 1)

Push has come to shove, here. In 2014 and last year, Limerick had the chances to see off Kilkenny but balked on the threshold. This is now different and a win is vital for John Kiely’s team to evolve. Can they do it? It’s a lot easier said than done.

Kilkenny’s survival instincts have already been seen to impressive effect against Wexford and a week ago in the replayed Leinster final, which Galway effectively had to win twice. Limerick, to an extent, resemble Galway in the depth of their panel and their physicality but they have an uneasy relationship with Kilkenny, not having beaten them in 45 championships.

There are more empirical grounds for favouring Limerick: Kilkenny are on their weekend running after two draining Leinster finals, there is a big injury doubt over their best ball-winning forward, Walter Walsh, and it’s not clear by how much Richie Hogan can extend the impressive cameo of last week. Yet no team that pulled back 11 of a 12-point deficit against Galway’s best performance of the year can be confidently dismissed. Limerick warmed the engine nicely in Carlow but now it’s time to hit the road.

Verdict: Limerick

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