DAVY Fitzgerald will find himself going up against some old friends when his Clare side play Waterford in the Munster senior hurling semi-final. Fitzgerald knows the Déise players very well having worked with many of them for a number of years.
New Waterford manager Michael Ryan has had a difficult time since taking the reins earlier in the year and his cause is not helped by the absence of a number of injured players.
If Waterford have the experience, opponents Clare are still an emerging side with many players from the successful under-21 side which beat Kilkenny in the 2009 All-Ireland final.
We got an opportunity to assess the Bannermen in the recent League semi-final against Kilkenny, but they looked ill-equipped to handle a team of Kilkenny’s stature that afternoon in Thurles.
How much they have improved in recent weeks is the big question? Fitzgerald is a great motivator and his side will not lack for passion or commitment against Waterford.
However, when it comes to his sideline role he needs to display some composure to allow him to make the important calls. Such calls are often be the difference between victory and defeat.
Waterford will be favourites, principally due to their recent Munster championship track record, but I think the passionate tutelage of Davy Fitzgerald will steer Clare to a Munster final appearance against either Tipperary or Cork.
The draw for the opening rounds of the hurling qualifiers saw Limerick and Wexford emerge as the big winners with home advantage. They play Laois and Westmeath respectively and will be highly fancied to go through to the second round of the qualifiers.
Success in both those games will see Limerick face Antrim and Wexford face Carlow, again at home venues. The draw has certainly favoured the two stronger sides and both will be happy to know that their championship fate is now back in their own hands.
Finally, the success of the Laois under-21 hurlers over Dublin was a big boost after the timid display of the county’s seniors against the Metropolitans some days earlier. It must be remembered that Laois beat Dublin at minor level three years ago, so this success should not be seen as a shock.
With excellent teams at both minor and under-14 levels this year, Laois hurling is not as poor as we witnessed recently in Tullamore. The road ahead will be a challenging one for these young hurlers, but it is good to see the O’Moore County developing new talent which will hopefully bring the county better days in the near future.