ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1A
CLARE v KILKENNY
(Ennis, Tomorrow, 2.0)
THERE was a time when it was confidently asserted that Kilkenny's bench could win an All-Ireland. Now though, we're certain the current residents of their injury ward could give it a fair crack.
Last Monday against Waterford in Nowlan Park, they finished with a full-back line of Paddy Hogan, JJ Delaney and Willie Phelan ... not so imposing without Jackie Tyrrell and Paul Murphy, both of whom limped off and won't make Ennis tomorrow.
And we've seen before (namely, the 2011 League final) how Kilkenny's awesome strength can be diluted by significant injury absences, particularly in the league when those available are engrossed in heavy training.
They were suitably sluggish against Waterford too, despite the need for a win to avoid a relegation battle, and only really asserted their authority on the scoreboard thanks to a couple of goals, gift-wrapped by Déise 'keeper Stephen O'Keeffe.
Typically, they went on a bit of a rampage after the first, with Eoin Larkin, Richie Hogan and Aidan Fogarty all shining at different stages.
But without Messrs Shefflin, Power, Reid and indeed Walter Walsh, it's not quite the same prospect.
And even with Brian Hogan and Tommy Walsh in situ across the half-back line, they conceded a large portion of scores from long-range Waterford shooters, perhaps further illustrating how, without Michael Fennelly and Michael Rice, they are less dynamic, defensively and offensively, around the middle.
Plus, they remain bottom of the top-flight and a defeat here against an in-form Clare team could send them into the final weekend not completely in charge of their own fate, and how Davy Fitzgerald would love to claim Kilkenny's scalp so early in the year.
It's not beyond the realms of possibility either.
But in times of need, it's never wise to back against Kilkenny so for that reason, we're not inclined to.
ODDS: Clare 7/4, Draw 10/1, Kilkenny 4/7