I think Sunday’s Munster final has the makings of a great game.
Clare have gone back to the orthodox 15-on-15 which makes for a great game. Cork, of course, have been at this structure for a while.
This should be a exciting contest, an open game. I think Cork are the form team coming into it and it will take a serious Clare performance to dampen their spirits.
I think the Rebels are progressing all the time and they are improving with every game. They seem to be a really solid outfit and I would expect Cork to just nick it. I think they are the form team coming into it and it will take a serious Clare performance to dampen their spirits.
The more experienced players have been excellent for Kieran Kingston’s side. There were questions about Pat Horgan’s form coming into it but he’s really stepped up to the plate. Also, Conor Lehane has been excellent.
Centre forward suits Lehane down to the ground because he has the legs and the pace to get around the field, especially around that half forward line/midfield area. He drops short and picks up balls – and he is able to score from distance.
They seem to have got a nice blend of youth and experience to the half forward line and the full forward line.
Lehane and Horgan are real wristy hurlers and all they need is a sniff at a chance and they’re very accurate. They will definitely have to be on their game for Cork to have any chance.
During the week, Kieran Kingston has been keen to focus on the older lads but I think the younger lads who have come in have been super. When the older players are not playing well the younger lads step up to the plate and are thriving on it.
It will be the young lads’ first Munster final and the occasion could get to them so they will be looking to the experienced lads to lead the way. That will be crucial to Cork’s momentum, to keep tipping over the points and keep Clare at bay.
You’d expect Clare would have an extra gear from what they showed in the semi-final, with the class of hurlers that they have in their side. They were going through the motions against Limerick and John Kiely’s men were very poor that day and I didn’t think Clare were much better.
I do expect a better performance from the Banner on Sunday. They have superb forwards in the team and on the bench so I expect them to raise their game. They are ultimately looking at winning the All-Ireland and to win the All-Ireland they will need a better performance on Sunday.
I expect that they will improve, but Cork are just that little bit stronger.
Tony Kelly is huge for Clare. It’s been a trait over the last couple of years that if Tony Kelly doesn’t play well, Clare don’t play well. That’s huge pressure to put on such a young lad. He lives up to it for the most part – you can count on one hand the number of bad games he has had, even for the club last year.
They will be hoping that he can have a great game and really bring everyone else on. If he does do that, Clare have a great chance.
Just on form I fancy Cork. There won’t be much in it but in the last two rounds, they have really impressed me the way they have played and their physicality and their movement.
With the blend of youth and experience that they have, I just fancy Cork to win this one.
Eoin Larkin, Pundit Arena
Ahead of the big match, listen to the latest episode of The 16th Man – Pundit Arena’s GAA podcast.