Fitzgerald set for successful Déise reunion
ANY and all previews of this match will focus primarily on two words: 'Davy' and 'Fitz'. And as much as various elements of the Waterford camp have tried to distance themselves from the reunion with their old manager, it is Davy who will dominate the coverage.
The Sixmilebridge man is, no question, a good manager. The conundrum is just whether he has been able to pack enough good management into his eight months in the Clare job to bring them to a level whereby beating Waterford is attainable.
And with promotion to Division 1A already secured, victory in Thurles tomorrow would make 2012 an unbridled success for Clare and Davy.
Thus far, he has managed to raise their fitness levels. He has changed their style, too.
No longer allowable for defenders is the chore of simply clearing the ball. Every strike must have an intended recipient and if that means taking an extra touch and, by extension, being occasionally blocked or hooked, just call it collateral damage.
Clare get men behind the ball, which forces their forwards to work harder against a greater population of defenders and, most strikingly, they hit hard.
In short, Davy is doing with Clare what he did for Waterford.
The Déise themselves have undergone change since his departure but Michael Ryan has had a claiming influence. Notably, Eoin Kelly is back after it looked as if his inter-county career was finished and he is named to start at wing-forward.
There are four debutants in the Waterford team, the most promising of which is probably Gavin O'Brien, who was consistent and sprightly in attack all spring in a league campaign which finished surprisingly satisfactorily for Ryan.
The match has, however, fallen too soon for Darach Honan, the Clonlara prodigy with the bad hip injury, a man for whose presence Clare would be far more dangerous and explosive.
Waterford possess the big-game Munster Championship experience whereas Clare have youth and the element of surprise on their side. It should be tight, fraught and not a little tough, but we expect Clare to nick it.
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; A Kearney, L Lawlor, S Daniels; R Foley, M Walsh, P Mahony; K Moran, S Molumphy; M Shananan, S Prendergast, E Kelly; J Mullane, S Walsh, G O'Brien.
ODDS: Clare 10/11, Draw 9/1, Waterford 11/10 VERDICT: Clare