Wednesday 26 September 2018

Banner set to pip battle of Munster's rising powers

Munster SHC Final: Cork v Clare (Semple Stadium, Live RTE2 Tomorrow, 4.0)

Clare’s Shane O’Donnell should shine against Cork in the Munster final tomorrow. Pic: Sportsfile
Clare’s Shane O’Donnell should shine against Cork in the Munster final tomorrow. Pic: Sportsfile

The comparison has been made this week between Cork, the surprise upstarts of the 2017 hurling summer, and the Clare side of 2013.

As former Tipperary captain and Dublin selector Richie Stakelum told the Herald: "You look at the energy that Cork are bringing, they're a young team that are playing with abandon. And that's what young guys do.

"When young guys come on to a team and start to play, they have this positive energy that just flows out of them. A bit like Clare in 2013.

"They've seen none of this before. They don't see danger. It's just an odyssey."

Tomorrow, Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade and Shane Kingston will play just their third Championship match for Cork, each of them 20 years of age or younger.

For a county whose underage record over the past decade can only be described as tragic, that's a fair chunk of a currently thriving team.

"Those lads were on a development panel, which was worked on offline last year," Kieran Kingston explained ahead of his first Munster final as Cork boss.


"We felt just because Cork hadn't won an All-Ireland minor in 16 years or an U21 in 19 years, that doesn't mean there aren't good players coming through who are capable of stepping up and playing at senior level. Cork hurling is stronger than people think between 14 and 19 or 20."

Just as Clare have struggled to be competitive since that most unexpected success, Cork would be well advised to clean up as much glory as possible before these tyros pause to think about where they've come from and what they may achieve.

It's been nine years since Clare were even in a Munster final which, given they've had a team good enough to win an All-Ireland title and League in the mean time, seems bizarre.

The goal-scoring feats of Shane O'Donnell against Limerick brought hope again, though.

For all Tony Kelly's brilliance, Podge Collins' trickery and the meaty ball-winning of Aaron Shanagher and John Conlon, O'Donnell brings a kind of unpredictable, ambitious electricity to the Clare forward line when he plays well.

Regularly, O'Donnell was employed as a sole inside man by Davy Fitzgerald but a greater commitment to numbers in attack and a clean run of health should see him shine once more.

As a collective, they should have enough to win here and put themselves back amongst the leading pack.

ODDS: Clare 7/5, Draw 9/1, Cork 8/11


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