Clare and Waterford go head to head on Sunday in what is the banner’s first home championship game since 1997.
Clare suffered an agonizing defeat to Cork last weekend while this is Waterford’s first outing of the 2018 campaign.
Even though Cork were the better team in Pairc Ui Chaoimh last weekend, Clare were left to rue missed chances, especially in the opening half. Too many times the final pass went astray when a goal looked on, but the creativity shown must offer great hope to the Clare faithful. Donal Moloney and Gerry O’ Connor decided to throw off the shackles and push up on the Cork full-back line, playing a more conventional formation than we have seen in recent years.
One problem for this team is the positioning of Tony Kelly, who notched up 1-2 for himself but drifted from the game for long periods. It seems that the game passes him by too often when he’s played at midfield so pushing him into the half forward line may be worth a go.
It’s difficult to gauge where Waterford are at given they haven’t played a competitive game since March the 18th when they were beaten by Cork in the Division 1A final. Before they have even pucked a competitive ball this summer, the Deise have been dealt a few serious blows to their championship ambitions. The Bennett brothers, Kieran and Shane have decided to leave the panel for 2018 and travel, while Padriac Mahony and Austin Gleeson (foot) have been ruled out this weekend due to injury.
It’s likely that Maurice Shanahan will start to take control of the free taking duties left behind by Mahony’s absence, which will severely damage the impact of the Waterford bench later in the game. Waterford are already are at a loss in this championship, given the fact that they will not play any home games which have proved vital so far in this year’s campaign.
The Deise’s big problems over the past few seasons in big games is that they cannot convert the amount of possession they have onto the scoreboard and entering this game without their regular free taker and the 2016 hurler of the year will not help. Clare will take plenty of positives from their loss last Sunday and will really fancy their chances of beating a weakened Waterford side in Ennis. A tad more efficiency from the Banner attack and this game is there for the taking. Derek McGrath sides will always be hard to beat but you would have to think that absentees and home advantage will be too much to overcome this weekend.
Odds: Clare 4/6 draw 8/1 Waterford 6/4
Ray Brennan, Pundit Arena