If you want to be anywhere this Sunday afternoon, it has to be Thurles.
Semple Stadium will host two All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter-finals for 2016, with Wexford v Waterford and Galway v Clare the games on show. Whether you’re going to Thurles or watching the games on TV, this article will pin-point some key players to watch.
Waterford’s Shane Bennett is in the form of his life at the moment. His display against Clare in the U21 championship of late shows his class on the field. His strength on the ball and in the air is something that can cause any defence problems and, as a result, he could be the big danger man in this Sunday’s tie between the two neighbouring counties. The Wexford defence will need to keep Bennett quiet if they wish continue their summer and succeed in their efforts to bring Wexford senior hurling back to where it was in the late 90s and early 2000s.
With regards to Wexford, we often see praise for the likes of Lee Chin and Conor McDonald, but there’s a new man on the scene for the yellow bellies these days, and his name goes by David Dunne. The Davidstown-Cortnacuddy player is a new shining light for Wexford hurling. He is pacey and skilful, and his work rate off the ball is simply indescribable. Against Cork, he constantly caused their defenders hassle and will look to repeat that trick this weekend.
Galway’s display against Kilkenny in the Leinster final was dismal to say the least. The majority of the team lacked hunger and were dominated on the pitch, but one Galway player in particular stood up for the cause. On a day that Joe Canning did not even score from play, Cathal Mannion scored five points against the Cats. Galway have other quality forwards too such as Canning and Conor Whelan, but close attention must be kept on Mannion if Clare expect to attain All-Ireland semi-final status once again. We all know how talented Mannion is from two years ago, and this year he seems to have found those feet once more.
If Clare wish to recapture the heights they set in 2013, they will need a big performance from this player in particular. Tony Kelly, undoubtedly, is one of the most versatile, skilful and talented hurlers we have in this modern age. A consistent match winner and a man who leads by example when it’s needed most, we have seen the former hurler of the year winning big games on the big stage before – in the 2015/16 Fitzgibbon for UL and in the League final against Waterford this year. He’s a big player, made for big games, and Clare will need Kelly to reproduce it once again on Sunday.
Jason Redmond, Pundit Arena