| 6.6°C Dublin

Strength from bench to help Rebels burn down Banner

FORGET what happened in Dungarvan last week. There is nothing to be learned or gained from that match and if the television images looked blotchy on RTÉ on Sunday night, can you imagine how Jimmy Barry Murphy or Michael Ryan's stats breakdown sheets looked at full-time?

A hurling match in those sort of conditions only serves to show which players really want to do the business and who are hanging around for the rain to stop. And not always is that an indicator of which of the candidates will deliver when it really matters.

And for Cork, probably no harm for an early reality check. They're better than Waterford, even through they drew a week ago.

But they're probably not yet at Tipperary's standard, despite the fact that they hammered them three weeks ago.


And this is the tango we are all forced to dance in the spring.

Are they better than Clare just now? Probably. Does that mean they'll beat them in Páirc Uí Rinn tonight? Not necessarily. And what ramifications will it have come summer? None whatsoever.

Certainly, their XV looks the stronger for the inclusion of both Brian Murphy and William Egan.

The former replaces Stephen McDonnell at full-back while Egan comes in for Stephen White on the wing.

Notably, Cork also boast a bench with the likes of Cathal Naughton, Luke O'Farrell and Conor Lehane on it, at least two of whom are likely to make Barry Murphy's starting team comes summer.

For Clare, a league semi-final spot would be a huge boost.

Not that Davy Fitzgerald will have wrapped his season's hopes around a league title.

They could just do with the extra games to acclimatise to this level of hurling before summer.

They do, however, need to cut back on the number of frees they are giving away, with almost 50 per cent of their concession rate coming from converted placed balls.

It's Cork's to lose on this occasion, though.

ODDS: Cork 8/13, Draw 10/1, Clare 13/8