Lonesharkoy previews the Munster Hurling final and he fancies Clare to beat Cork and being up a weekend county double.
Cork vs Clare
In all the furore about the venue for the Kildare vs Mayo game, the fact that two provincial hurling finals are down for decision has got a little lost, though appetites for Sunday’s fixtures are beginning to get whetted again. No build up was needed in the case of the Munster hurling final, where a full house is expected for the clash of Cork and Clare at Semple Stadium.
For all their consistency in recent years, there is something deeply unconvincing about this Cork hurling team, even with the Munster Cup in their possession after their resurgent 2017 season. They can score freely – though they’re just as capable of giving away scores freely at the other end, as evidenced by their averages. The Rebels are the closest side to matching Galway in terms of points scored per game, but defensively they are a world apart from where the Tribesmen are at right now.
And that’s a concern going into a Munster final where Clare, who would have been considered to be a similar type of side, have found a little bit of defensive mojo. Both of these teams are full of pace and craft, both would prefer to stay away from heavy traffic and trust in their ability rather than go down the central channels and trust in their physicality, and that’s why engineering space and time will be crucial this week. Last year Clare tied themselves up in knots trying to diagnose and counteract the Cork puckout, this year they’ll keep it much simpler, if the evidence of the games so far is to be believed. Expect them to concede some of the shorter deliveries, since a full back line player striking on the run is probably preferable to Anthony Nash picking his spot from the end line. Otherwise they’ll simply fan across the field, and ask Cork to pick holes in a defensive set that will be moving every minute. Like a drunk man trying to put his key in the front door, it mightn’t be as simple as all that.
On the other end, Clare have simpler options. Peter Duggan and John Conlon will do well under simple, direct restarts and like a rugby pack where you can trust your main second row player to win his own lineout ball, that basic option open up a lot of other alternatives at the front and the back of the line.
There isn’t a lot to call between these teams, and there’s no getting away from the fact that Cork have had the better of the games between these sides in recent years. Equally however, Clare appear to be on an upward trajectory, perhaps feeling that luck is on their side after their close shave against Tipperary. Identifying where there is improvement to be found in the Cork team is trickier, and this could be the game where their freescoring attack stutters to a degree. If Clare can hold them to 1-22 or less, the Banner look like they might edge this one, in no small part because their bench is superior and that will be utterly crucial in the height of the afternoon sun.
Clare to win at 11/10 with Betfair