By Rory Houston
Clare's league campaign has highlighted the small differences between the top and bottom place in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A as they clash with Tipperary on Sunday.
Davy Fitzgerald’s men came so close to beating Kilkenny and securing a place in the semi-finals, but fell short by the minimum score.
They face a journey to Semple Stadium on Sunday now, probably needing a result to avoid the relegation play-off.
It was tough on the Banner as they produced a performance to match the Cats and created so many chances to score more than the 1-15 they put on the board.
The disappointment of defeat can be tempered with the knowledge that this league campaign is giving growing Clare the chance to compete against the top sides and they’ve done so admirably.
Matches like last time out against Kilkenny will benefit them later in the year.
Clare’s biggest loss has been by one point and it would be a shame to see good work unravel on Sunday.
The alternating goalkeeper policy utilised by Eamon O’Shea continues as Darren Gleeson takes over from Brendan Cummins for Tipperary.
Paddy Stapleton, Conor O’Mahony, Brendan Maher, John O’Dwyer and Eoin Kelly come into the team instead of Donagh Maher, Thomas Stapleton, James Woodlock, Brian O’Meara and Adrian Ryan as the Tipp boss make multiple changes for their final match.
The Premier saw a five-point advantage slip away against Waterford and leaves them, like the five other teams in the division, needing a result at home against the Banner.
O’Shea has freshened up his team but was not too displeased with the result last week.
He said: “I wouldn't be too hard on my team. We had a poor first half, we battled back and we had the initiative. We just didn't hold it until the end, but I thought the team battled hard.
“We just couldn't seem to get our hands on the ball in the last few minutes, but they (Waterford) were fully deserving of something out of the game.”
There are big names back for Tipp and they’ll welcome a return to home turf after much of the league on the road.
Clare’s chance could well have gone.