THE DRAW FOR phase three of the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers took place this morning on TV3′s Ireland AM programme and it has pitted together Munster rivals Clare and Limerick while Cork will face Wexford.
Clare v Limerick
The standout tie of the phase and particularly because a pressing issue for the GAA fixture-makers now is where to play this match. Generally qualifiers tend to be played at neutral venues but while Thurles is the most suitable ground in that regard, it is likely the Cork and Wexford match will be played there as the Wexford footballers are down to face Tipperary in the football qualifiers at 5pm next Saturday.
The GAA could attempt to ask the counties to toss for the venue but there would be doubt over whether Cusack Park in Ennis could cater for the crowd given the level of interest this game is likely to spark. Would Clare be aggreable to playing the game in their opponents home patch in the Gaelic Grounds? Will another neutral ground like Killarney or Portlaoise have to be used? Or could a triple-header be played in Thurles? It is a fixtures headache that will have to be quickly solved.
It should be an engaging contest and there is a keen rivalry starting to develop between these pair. They have already met twice this year in the league with Clare emerging triumphant on both occasions and the Division 1B final in the Gaelic Grounds in April was a highly-charged affair. Clare’s stunning fitness levels were a key ingredient in that success when the teams met in April as they overhauled Limerick in the second-half that evening and clearly they continue to display a penchant for comebacks on the evidence of last Saturday’s qualifier win over Dublin. The question is to whether Limerick have closed the gap in the interim and certainly at this stage of the season they should be in better shape with more work on the training field behind them.
They have been racking up huge scoring totals in recent weeks as they destroyed Laois and Antrim but the impoverished nature of the challenges they received in those games is likely to have concerned John Allen. He will have learnt little from those outings whereas Clare received a stern examination against Dublin that should prove highly benefical. After that rousing win, Davy Fitzgerald must now douse the celebrations and train his players focus on next Saturday’s game.
Cork v Wexford
Given the Wexford footballers are in action in Semple Stadium, it seems likely that this match will also take place at the Thurles venue and offer Wexford fans the chance to see both their flagship county teams in action. Liam Dunne’s men face a difficult challenge in a game that wil be a step up in intensity from what they experienced recently in their qualifier successes against Westmeath and Carlow. This game will define whether they have recovered from their Leinster championship exit to Offaly.
It was the Faithful county that Cork ousted last Saturday night but they were forced to sweat before emerging victorious. They will be boosted by the return of Eoin Cadogan to the fray after his football exploits last Sunday. And the nature of that success should assist them as they seek to negotiate the backdoor route. Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s side will be favoured to win this one in what will be the county’s first senior hurling championship meeting since the 2004 All-Ireland semi-final when Cork triumphed by 1-27 to 0-12.