Cork legend Diarmuid O’Sullivan feels Clare need the Munster title more than Cork do – but thinks that the Rebels will do the business this Sunday.
Speaking to Paddy Power News, the former Cork defender, a five-time Munster champion, feels that Clare’s lack of a provincial championship since 1998 means that the onus is more on them to end that two-decade barren run in Thurles this weekend:
“The last time Clare won a Munster title was 1998. They need a Munster Championship more than Cork do. The benefits of avoiding the quarter-finals will be huge both in terms of recovery and getting your homework on the potential opposition done.
“If Clare win Munster on Sunday they are making a massive statement. I was very critical about them after their first game with Cork, I saw failures and difficulties within that team. But, I’ll hold may hands up and say they’ve turned it around. They’ve really upped the ante and the management team, along with the players will be very happy with how they’ve come through it.
“However, now Clare need silverware to keep the momentum going and to beat the four big teams in Munster in one season would be a huge achievement for them.”
O’Sullivan feels that Clare finally look ready to put the Davy Fitzgerland era behind them. The Banner tasted All-Ireland glory under Davy Fitz in 2013, and it seems that they are now starting to emerge from his 2016 departure under co-managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor.
“[O’Connor and Moloney] are very professional in what they do and you can now see their authority in Clare with the way they want to play the game. Especially over the last few weeks that has been very evident to see.
“The Davy Fitzgerald era is well gone from Clare and this is their era now. It took a bit of a while for Clare to turn, but fair play to them for doing just that. They’ve found a recipe for success.”
Despite the promise that Clare have shown in going through the round robin stage unbeaten (as did Cork), O’Sullivan has tipped the Rebels to shade it and retain the Munster SHC in a repeat of last year’s final:
“Clare are coming into it on the back of three wins in-a-row. They’ve had better results than Cork of late, The Rebels have had a couple of draws. On that basis, you can see why pundits are going for The Banner. The key question for me though is, can the Clare full back line hold Cork’s full forward line? Can they stop them from getting goals and creating havoc? That’s where the immediate danger lies for Clare: they have to protect that full back line.
“I’d still fancy Cork to win on Sunday. Cork have enjoyed the better of it in recent times and okay, those games are gone and it’s a different day. But, there’ll be a wonderful Cork crowd there in Thurles and it’s sell out. We’ve been treated to a brilliant Munster Championship and hopefully the final tops it off.
As hurling supporters, we’ve been blessed by what we’ve seen and a Cork victory for me will finish that off.”