This weekend’s Munster final sees Cork take on Clare in what looks set to be an epic clash. Anytime these sides have met in the past five years there has been fireworks. Two key players for the sides will be Cork’s Conor Lehane and Clare’s Tony Kelly.
Have no doubt that the performances of these men will have a huge impact on the result of the game. In many ways these two are more similar than we might think. Both are blessed with blistering pace and highly impressive skill.
There are more than enough contrasts between the duo also however.
Up to now, many would have questioned Lehane’s consistency. Now however, Rebel supporters wonder where they would be without him. The Midleton attacker has been spectacular so far in 2017.
Meanwhile, Kelly has been the model of consistency for the past number of years. Capable of moments of sheer genius, he looks to be on a different planet at times. That said, Clare star player performed uncharacteristically poor in Clare’s sole championship outing this year.
Both sets of supporters would point to both these men as crucial components in their team’s chances in the Munster final.
If Lehane can reach the dizzying heights he has so far, particularly against Tipperary, the Leesiders will be filled with confidence.
Of course, his injury issues have been well-documented by this stage of the summer. A recurring ankle injury has plagued the former UCC student until now and he was carried off the field against the Déise but has been declared fit for Sunday.
Amazingly for a man of his talent, the 2014 Munster medalist has never received an All-Star award. Another top-class performance this Sunday should bring him one step closer.
For Kelly, well, each and every time the Ballyea man takes the field, the world is expected of him. Amazingly, more often than not, he delivers.
It speaks volumes of the man that when doesn’t reach his own insane heights, it becomes a major talking point of the match. This was the case in Clare’s victory over Limerick.
While Kelly had a dream year in 2013, taking home an All-Star and the Hurler of the Year title, he has not seen one of these accolades since. The Ballyea man will hope to return to the success of that unforgettable year for Clare hurling.
In their senior careers to date, the stats favour Clare’s Kelly rather highly. However, 2017 is a new year, and Cork’s Lehane will hope to make it his year and hope to lead Cork to glory on Sunday.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena
Listen to this week’s episode of The 16th Man where we look ahead to this weekend’s Munster final between Clare and Cork.