By James McMahon
Clare v Waterford, Semple Stadium, 4pm
The Munster hurling championship swings into action with Clare and Waterford sure to provide an entertaining clash at Semple Stadium.
On the back of recent underage success, can Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare side make a real impact this summer?
As for Waterford, have they the personnel that can keep them competitive with some big names absent from the team sheet?
To answer the latter first, you would have to say that the spring campaign highlighted the Déise’s resolve as they comfortably kept their place in the league’s top flight.
John Mullane’s decision to retire and the unavailability of Stephen Molumphy were key blows to the squad at the start of the year.
More recently, a knee injury has left defender Stephen Daniels sidelined.
Yet, the prophets that predicted a period of decline for Waterford have been made to eat their words.
Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, Kevin Moran, Maurice Shanahan and Seamus Prendergast have still much to offer and more often than not excel in the heat of championship.
After a couple of All-Ireland U-21 victories, there is a buzz again in the Banner, and with Davy Fitz at the helm the expectancy is there that silverware can be achieved.
It’s 1998 since they last won a Munster title.
The side sees three Championship newcomers – David McInerney a member of last year’s All-Ireland U-21 winning side, starts at full-back, Conor Ryan is named at midfield.
The other debutant is Shane O’Donnell, who will line out at the edge of the square.
Waterford also introduce a trio to summer fare. Paudie Prendergast from the Lismore club has been named in the half–back line.
Up front, Jamie Barron and Jake Dillon will occupy the corner-forward berths.
Clare boasted a high scoring return during the league, with Tony Kelly, and Colin Ryan most prolific. The inclusion of the exciting Shane O’Donnell at No 14 is sure to add further spice to their attack.
Brendan Bugler and Pat Donnellan in the half-back line will look to stem the Déise tide as both sides seek a winning dividend on the expected dry sod at Semple.
The bookies have Clare favourites.
On the basis of talent coming through and the trophies won, you would have to concur. Yet Waterford should not be discounted and a victory for the Banner will be hard won in what’s likely to be a high scoring contest.
Clare: Patrick Kelly; Domhnall O'Donovan, David McInerney, Seadna Morey; Brendan Bugler, Patrick Donnellan, Patrick O'Connor; Colm Galvin, Conor Ryan; John Conlon, Tony Kelly, Colin Ryan; Paudric Collins, Shane O'Donnell, Conor McGrath.
Waterford: Ian O'Regan, Darragh Fives, Liam Lawlor, Noel Connors, Jamie Nagle, Michael Walsh, Paudie Prendergast, Shane O'Sullivan, Kevin Moran (capt), Maurice Shanahan, Seamus Prendergast, Brian O'Halloran, Jamie Barron, Pauric Mahony, Jake Dillon
Live television coverage of Derry v Down (Football) and Clare v Waterford (Hurling) from 13:30 on Sunday 2 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only). Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Clare v Waterford from 14:00 on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).
Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on The Sunday Game from 21:30 on Sunday 2 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).