Tipperary: Last years’ All Ireland Champions made a shock-exit at the hands of Cork in this years’ Munster Championship but they have been creeping along quietly in the background ever since. They have enjoyed straightforward victories over Westmeath and Dublin respectively, and have eased their way back into All Ireland contention with Seamus Callanan and John McGrath leading the way up front scoring 5-13 between them against Dublin.
Clare: Munster Finalists Clare made hard work of Limerick in their semi-final and many of their top players failed to fire in a disappointing Munster Final loss to Cork. While the game was close throughout, Clare never really looked like winning that day and this team have clearly failed to build on their All Ireland success in 2013. Star-man Tony Kelly has failed to hit his usual standards, and it’s certainly evident that his run to the All Ireland Club Final with Ballyea has taken it’s toll on the former Hurler of the Year.
Verdict: It was largely expected that Tipperary would be waiting in an All Ireland semi-final at this stage of the summer, but the Premier county were extremely disappointing in their Munster quarter final loss to Cork. Since then however, Cork have shown they are a force to be reckoned with, and the two easy victories in the qualifiers will have Tipperary hitting form on Saturday evening. Clare’s defence looked suspect throughout the Munster Final, with Alan Cadogan causing havoc, and Tipperary are expected to exploit this. They’ve scored nine goals in their three championship game so far, and goals could be the order of the day once again.
Wexford: Wexford started off 2017 with five wins from five in the league, and while they were outclassed by Tipperary in the semi-final, that campaign provided the launchpad for their famous win over Kilkenny in June. They disappointed however in the Leinster Final, and while they tried hard throughout, they simply missed too many opportunities against better opposition. They will need to improve massively on that performance if they are to progress to an All Ireland semi final.
Waterford: Waterford were widely expected to beat Cork in the Munster Semi-Final but too many of their marquee players just didn’t perform that day and perhaps the two-month break following the league was the reason. Since then, they have hit form with wins over Offaly and Kilkenny and it looks like last years’ Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson is hitting form at just the right time.
Verdict: These two sides met at the same stage 12 months ago with Waterford running out easy 10 point winners, and it’s possible that it could be a similar story on Sunday. The Wexford team that Davy Fitzgerald has brought together is a different animal to last year, but they are lacking in a couple of positions, which will prove costly at this stage of the championship. Waterford look like they are peaking at the right time and they can count on star-men Tadgh deBurca, Jamie Barron and Austin Gleeson to carry them safely through to another All Ireland semi-final.
Galway: Last years’ All Ireland Quarter Finalists Galway kicked off their 2017 championship campaign with a fantastic win over Mayo in the Connacht Semi-Final, but they were extremely disappointing in their Connacht Final meeting with Roscommon. They scored just 3 first half points that day, and they will need to improve massively if they are to beat favorites Donegal.
Donegal: Donegal were comprehensively beaten by Tyrone in the Ulster Semi-Final ,but Tyrone have since shown their All Ireland credentials, and that result may not be as bad as first thought. They have since bounced back with wins over Longford and Meath in the qualifiers but those victories were far from convincing and it’s looking like this Donegal team are not the force of old. They will need to recover that form if they are to beat a Galway team with high aspirations.
Verdict: While Galway struggled throughout in the Connacht Final, the conditions on the day would have affected them far more than Roscommon. The better conditions on Saturday evening in Sligo should suit Galway’s skillful forwards and should allow them take advantage of a Donegal defence that conceded 1-21 against Tyrone and have been unconvincing since. This Galway team were shocked by Tipperary in last years’ Quarter-Final and they will be itching to get back to Croke Park to rectify that result.