Clare v Cork Preview (Saturday 11th, 7pm)
Throughout his tenure as manager of the Clare Senior Hurling team, David Fitzgerald has seen his charges play Cork in all manner of high pressure matches, including the biggest of all in 2013.
In 2013, Clare prevailed over Cork in one of the best League matches in memory in the relegation playoff. That day in the Gaelic Grounds, Clare won 0-31 to 2-23 after extra time and showed a great deal of character that would be seen again later in the year.
When it came to Munster Championship, Cork had the better of Clare on a poor day for the Banner in which the biggest positive was the emergence of late replacement to the starting line-up Podge Collins.
Few would have predicted how the year would pan out for either side but now who can forget? Particularly on this side of the province.
Last summer, Cork again beat Clare in Munster Championship, this time in Thurles and the question marks began to arise.
Now here we are, Clare having gotten their first championship win in 21 months against Offaly and Cork being hit with many questions after two high profile losses to a rejuvenated Waterford.
Both sides are coming into the clash with a comfortable Round 1 victory under their belt and knowing that there will be nothing comfortable about Round 2.
Cork were afforded a lot of freedom to play against Wexford and nobody benefitted more from this than Conor Lehane. The Midleton clubman scored 1-6 (all from play) and was a constant thorn in the side for Wexford.
Jimmy Barry Murphy has named an unchanged lineup for the Clare match which means Seamus Harnedy would line out on the edge of the square beside Cian Dillon. With Harnedy’s ability in the air, I’d expect to see him out around the ’45 at some stage, particularly if Brendan Bugler is as prominent in the air as he was against Offaly. The aerial battles between Bugler, Harnedy and Conor Ryan were a highlight of the All Ireland Finals of 2013.
With no Clare team named yet, there is a lot of speculation as to whether Colm Galvin will start and if Paddy Donnellan will come straight back into the team.
With very little between the two sides, its set to be another exhilarating match between these two sides. Discipline will be key to the outcome, particularly for Clare, who have repeatedly had players dismissed in big championship matches since the start of last year. 15 v 15, Clare may just have enough in the tank to see off Cork.
Big performances are needed for the Banner the inside forward line, the Ryans in the middle of the field and in the bottom corners where Pat Horgan and Alan Cadogan will no doubt be very active.