Latest from the medics and the management
Dublin will wait to name their team in order to give Conal Keaney and Conor McCormack every opportunity to prove their fitness.
That move will put Clare under pressure to either do likewise, or name a side likely to face last-minute changes.
Checking the odds…It’s a difficult game to call and that’s reflected in Dublin’s status as 10/11 favourites and Clare being ranked at 11/10. The handicap betting has Dublin (-1) at 11/10.
Clues from the form guide…Two years ago these teams met in a round two qualifier in Croke Park where Dublin summarily dismissed their opponents by a 2-22 to 0-15 margin.
The relevancy of that clash is brought into question by team changes since then with nine of the Dublin team from that day having started against Kilkenny a fortnight ago and eight of the Clare side having lined out from the off against Waterford three weeks ago.
The pressing issue is whether Clare have closed the 13-point gap in the interim? Their defeat to Waterford was a continuation of their recent abysmal record in Munster with only three senior hurling wins to their name down south since 2000 and they haven’t won a game in the provincial championship in 11 of the last 13 seasons.
But the sense is that they are now a superior side who but for a lack of experience and conviction in their shooting in the finale could easily have defeated the Déise.
They will mount a fiercer challenge now against a Dublin team who face a significant task in picking themselves up after their mauling at the hands of Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final.
Dublin’s season was built around peaking for that game which made their display all the more crushing. Indeed that game was part of a worrying trend for Dublin which has seen them, since last July’s All-Ireland quarter-final success against Limerick, win only one of nine games between league and championship.
And that was the 3-23 to 1-7 destruction of a Laois team that were in disarray. The game breakers are…It’s going to be critical to what extent Dublin, not only recover mentally from their ordeal against Kilkenny, but also improve the sharpness of their first touch, the direction of their delivery to their attack and the structure of their defence.
They will need improvements in their scoring return with only five points registered from play against Kilkenny. Helping Paul Ryan in that department is important, they could do with Ryan O’Dwyer rediscovering the goalscoring touch from the All-Ireland quarter-final last year, hope Danny Sutcliffe can express himself and that the best position can be found to maximise Liam Rushe’s talents.
From Clare’s viewpoint, they look to be better equipped in the personnel stakes this time around. After shaking off injury problems Darach Honan offers a goal-scoring weapon to be used at some juncture, Sean Collins energetic style is another addition and Tony Kelly, available after the completion of his Leaving Cert, has consistently been a reliable point-scorer at underage level and there seems little reason for that to now change on the senior stage.
It is instrumental that Clare tighten up in their half-back line, which was an area of concern against Waterford, and hope Domhnall O’Donovan and Cian Dillon can continue their impressive defensive form closer to goal. Conor McGrath and John Conlon are glittering attacking talents that they must utilise more as well.
Gazing into the crystal ball
It’s a massive encounter for both teams, but the pressure is heaped more on Dublin. There will be disappointment in the Clare camp if they are defeated but their team is still young and their management are in the first year at the helm. In contrast Dublin are further ahead in their development and the likelihood is that a loss could prompt the end of Anthony Daly’s tenure.
The nature of their loss to Kilkenny is hard to fathom given all the pre-match hope that abounded. Their players, who clearly trust and admire their coach, have vowed to produce a response for him and Clare will be bracing themselves for some sort of a backlash.
Davy Fitzgerald will be aware of how teams can turn their campaigns around, something he achieved in style with Waterford last July as he guided them to a ten-point victory over Galway a fortnight after observing a 21-point defeat against Tipperary.
However the Clare manager will have his team steeled for that scenario and there is a school of thought in Banner hurling circles that their young players need to step up and claim a major senior championship win.
The time has come where they can achieve just that in front of their home supporters.
Courtesy of http://www.thescore.ie