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We’ve got Davy Fitzgerald v Brian Lohan again, two managers that really don’t like each other. So, after the controversy in Clare GAA over the winter, Covidgate and the ending of Clare v Tipperary a couple of weeks ago this game is set up perfectly to be a spicy affair in Thurles.
This is Fitzgerald’s third time meeting his home county as Wexford manager in the Championship and he’s failed to beat them on the previous two occasions. Clare knocked Wexford out last year when The Yellowbellies were favourites, and that makes this contest a huge game for Davy and his charges.
Physically, both of these teams match up given that they both have had two Championship games apiece under their belt already. Wexford have had the two-week break and the match with Kilkenny will bring them on 10-fold. The question for these counties will be how they are mentality after their respective previous defeats. Many people feel that Wexford should have beaten Kilkenny in normal time, and they certainly had the chances to put The Cats to bed. Will that scar them mentality going into this game? It may just do.
For their part, The Banner County need to forget about the infamous penalty decision against Tipperary that probably cost them a spot in the Munster final. Clare have a couple of big players like David McInerney and Shane O’Donnell to come back into the reckoning. The game being held in Thurles is also a factor, as Wexford don’t have a great record at the venue. That’s enough to swing it for me, and I’m going to back Clare to win this match.
No disrespect is meant to Laois when I say this. But, out of all the teams that were in the hat for the Qualifiers, they were the team everyone wanted to draw. Waterford were the ones to get them, but The Déise still have injury problems to overcome. Tadhg de Búrca is out and gone for the rest of the season, he is a colossal loss to Waterford.
There is talk in the county that Conor Prunty is in line for a return, but we don’t know the condition of Jamie Barron. If he is not in the middle of the park for Liam Cahill’s men, he’s going to be a big, big loss and we all saw how he was missed the last day against Clare. There are also rumours that Shane Bennett is out with a hamstring injury. That’s a lot of key personnel to be without if you are Waterford.
On the other hand, Laois come into this match on the back of a very good win over Antrim last week and the pressure is off for the men led by Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett now. They have secured their status as a Liam McCarthy county for another year and their next big game for them now, in my eyes, is the National League Division 1 relegation play-off with Westmeath in a few weeks’ time.
Last weekend Laois went for it against Antrim, as opposed to setting up in a defensive mind set and The O’Moore County really have some good hurlers. Paddy Purcell would get into any team across Ireland, while Ross King, Cha Dywer and Willie Dunphy are also top players. They do have men that can trouble Waterford.
It’s how they play in defence that will decide the outcome of this match. The handicap is currently set at 14 points, and while I do believe Waterford will win the game, Laois will have a right crack at this, and I expect them to defend the (+14) handicap available on them.
As regular readers will know, I’ve continuous tipped The Dubs over the last 12 months and they’ve let me down. When you tip them they disappoint you, but when you don’t back them they go and do the unthinkable by beating a team like Galway! So, I do have a slight fear that I’ve tipped them before and now I’m asking myself, if I can tip Dublin again?
But, they really do have some fantastic hurlers. Eoghan O’Donnell, Liam Rush, Danny Sutcliffe (who is the form of his life), Chris Crummey, Donal Burke, Ronan Hayes and Cian O’Sullivan are just brilliant. Mattie Kenny also has got Dublin tight at the back by playing a sweeper and he also have a few players from Dublin’s 2020 run to the All-Ireland U20 final to bring in if he wants too.
Kilkenny really are going to have to be at the top of their game to win this Leinster final and this contest may come down to the individual battle between O’Donnell and TJ Reid. O’Donnell is the best full back in the country in my book, while Reid is one of the greatest hurlers we’ve ever seen. But, if O’Donnell gets on top of Reid early doors, Dublin have a great chance of winning the Bob O’Keeffe Cup.
Let’s be honest about it, if Galway were playing Kilkenny this weekend, The Tribesmen would be favourites. But, Dublin beat Galway, so that should tell you all you need to know about this Dublin panel. Kilkenny boss Brian Cody will know his men escaped with a one-point win when the counties met last year. So, he knows The Cats need to show Dublin respect. You can get Dublin (+4) in the handicap market and I’m going to jump all over that.
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