Tipperary look in better shape


Tipperary v Clare: IF ANYTHING can relight the fire of the old Clare hurling passion it’s the sight of the blue jersey with the gold hoop.

There is enough rivalry in recent years alone to bring out the absolute best in both teams, the only problem with that being Tipperary appear in such better shape.

Not that Clare travel without hope. Manager Mike McNamara said throughout the league all their effort was aimed at the championship, and by all accounts they have trained very, very well in the weeks since the league. The lack of a championship game is a handicap, but the lack of expectation may well be an advantage.

They proved that in the first round of the Munster championship last year, when they comfortably beat a well-fancied Waterford team. But when it came to the Munster final a few weeks later the expectation may have got the better of them, and Tipp ran out 2-21 to 0-19 winners.

With Colin Lynch gone and Gerry Quinn in enforced retirement, there is a greater sense of uncertainty about the Clare line-up. James McInerney makes his championship debut at full back and that’s an obvious gamble, while Newmarket-on-Fergus club mates Colin Ryan and David Barrett come in at left wing forward and full forward respectively.

Gerry O’Grady has recovered from his ankle injury to line out at left corner back, with Alan Markham taking over from Quinn in the half back line.

Tipp make one change from the uneasy win over Cork. Pat Kerwick, who came on for Michéal Webster the last day, replaces the full forward, but starts at wing forward, with John O’Brien now at 14.

There is a sense in Tipp that manager Liam Sheedy has been timing preparations a little differently this year, that the big push is for later in the summer. That may explain why they weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders against Cork, but they’ll probably be in better shape again tomorrow, which can only make the task more difficult for Clare.

TIPPERARY: B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Curran, C O’Brien; D Fanning, C O’Mahony, P Maher; J Woodlock, S McGrath; P Kerwick, S Callanan, L Corbett; E Kelly, J O’Brien, N McGrath.

CLARE:P Brennan; P Vaughan, J McInerney, G O’Grady; P Donnellan, B Bugler, A Markham; B O’Connell, T Griffin; T Carmody, D McMahon, C Ryan; N Gilligan, D Barrett, J Clancy.

Referee: J Owen (Wexford).

In the last episode: There was a lot more hype when they sides met in last year’s Munster final, but Tipp eased home. Clare’s last win over their old Munster rivals was the 2003 quarter-final, where they won out 2-17 to 0-14.

On your marks: It’s so critical Clare get into this game early on. On top of that, Clare’s back-up on the bench wouldn’t come near Tipp’s.

Gaining ground:When Tipp and Clare last met, in the Munster semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds, in 2005, the attendance was 23,537. Last year, they drew 48,076 to the provincial final. Tomorrow’s attendance should be more along the lines of 2005.

Just the ticket:Tickets costing €30 for Mackey Stand (Covered) and €25 for Uncovered Stand are available on www.ticketmaster.ie and www.munster.gaa.ie \. Cash at the stiles for terrace.

You bet:Boylesports are offering odds of 1/5 Tipp, 4/1 Clare, and 12/1 the draw, with handicap betting of 10/11 Tipp (-6), 21/20, Clare (+6).

Crystal gazing:Replacing so many of their household names has proven more difficult than Clare would have expected. Either way it will take a massive turnaround in form if they are to upset Tipp.