Cork and Clare begin their respective Munster hurling championship campaigns on Sunday evening at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in what is expected to be a bumper crowd down by the River Lee.
Both sides are coming into the championship on the back of poor league campaign. Cork were battling it out for relegation with Waterford in the final game, while Clare lost out to Limerick in their league meeting. Advantage you would imagine is with Cork who have home advantage and in championship it counts for a lot in my opinion anyway.
Cork had a good championship last year and went on to win Munster. Players like Darragh Fitzgibbon, Mark Coleman, Shane Kingston and Luke Meade all shone. These players with championship experience under their belt will again be key, while the Cadogan’s I expect will be massive players for them to. Clare will rely on the exploits of Tony Kelly, Conor McGrath and Shane O’Donnell, while in defence they can call on Jack Browne, Seadna Morey and Conor Cleary.
The sides will meet for the second time in the championship in the space of 10 months. That was the Munster in which Cork prevailed by 5 points last July. The sides have met 11 times since 2000, with Cork winning nine, Clare winning one, and a draw which was the 2013 All-Ireland Final.
LAST FIVE CHAMPIONSHIP CLASHES
Wexford won three of five Allianz League games in 1A, beat Galway in the quarter-final and lost to Kilkenny in the semi-final, while Dublin beat Antrim and Laois in 1B and lost out to Tipperary in the quarter final.
2017: Cork 1-25 Clare 1-20 (Munster final)
2015: Cork 0-20 Clare 0-17 (All-Ireland qualifier)
2014: Cork 2-23 Clare 2-18 (Munster semi-final)
2013: Clare 5-16 Cork 3-16 (All-Ireland final) Replay
2013: Clare 0-25 Cork 3-16 (All-Ireland final) Draw
Clare won three of five games in 1A before losing the quarter-final to Limerick on a free-taking shoot out after the sides finished level following two periods of extra-time. Cork won one of five League games this year but survived in 1A after beating Waterford in a relegation play-off.
Cork are favourites at 8/13, with the Banner 13/8 to win, the draw is 9/1. I personally expect a very close game here. Cork with home advantage swings it for me but it will be tight just like all games in Munster. On that basis, Cork to win by 1-3 points looks good at 7/2, while I would fancy Shane O’Donnell to grab the first goal.