Kilkenny will be warm favourites to reach another Hurling League final this weekend, but opponents Clare are entering this semi-final having already achieved all their targets in Division 1B. Promotion plus winning the title (against Limerick) will have the Banner men in confident mood.
But Kilkenny will be a big step up in class for Davy Fitzgerald’s men. This, though, is the perfect test for Fitzgerald’s young charges. Few will expect them to succeed. Some might feel that this just might be where Kilkenny are vulnerable.
I doubt it, though!
Kilkenny’s physicality plus the pace at which the team moves the ball will be a new experience for Clare. Whatever the result, this is the perfect challenge for the Banner in advance of their upcoming Munster championship tie against Davy Fitzgerald’s former side, Waterford. I am looking forward to seeing Cork in action. Much has been written about a number of Jimmy Barry Murphy’s young players. By all accounts Cork is certainly moving in the right direction. That can only be good for hurling.
The Rebels drew with Tipperary in their final league game recently, but we should witness a lot more intensity on Sunday. If Tipperary overcome Limerick in their opening Munster championship tie on May 27, they face Cork in the semi-final on June 24.
That, though, is unlikely to deter either side from wanting to reach the League final. Nothing prepares a team for the championship like a good, strong League campaign.
The Tipperary team management is working hard to find a settled team and that, plus the re-emergence of Cork as a serious force, ensures that Sunday’s Semple Stadium encounter is a must see game.
A Kilkenny versus Tipperary League final could well see the game being played in Nowlan Park if an age-old agreement between the counties is approved by the National CCC.