An itch you can’t scratch

Clare occupy a unique place in the Come On The Déise pantheon: they are the only county I have seen us play yet not seen us defeat at Senior level. Admittedly three games is not statistically the most significant of sample sizes – I’ve been to ten matches between Waterford and Kilkenny, with three National League wins – but it’s bothersome, especially when you consider the monumental nature of the defeats (two Munster finals and an All-Ireland semi-final). It gives the game on Sunday an extra frisson of tension. What are the prospects? Looking at the team sheet, I’m feeling pretty confident. The mere fact that there is a team sheet so far in advance of the throw-in is a good thing. None of this waiting-until-fifteen-minutes-before-the-start silly buggers from Michael Ryan.

Stephen O’Keeffe
Aidan Kearney Liam Lawlor Stephen Daniels
Richie Foley Michael Walsh Philip Mahony
Kevin Moran Stephen Molumphy
Maurice Shanahan Seamus Prendergast Eoin Kelly
John Mullane Shane Walsh Gavin O’Brien

There’s a lovely mix of the reliable and the unexpected in the team. We have Aidan Kearney back playing Championship hurling for the first time in three years – I know, I couldn’t believe it either – while in the other corner we have a new Young Turk in Stephen Daniels. The return of Eoin Kelly shows players are never entirely out of Ryan’s plans while the thought of Gavin O’Brien starting out on what is hopefully a career path just like Kelly’s is enough to make you giddy all by itself. I’m inclined to think that taking to the field without Tony Browne is an act of bravery rather than bravado. And he’ll be some impact sub. There are concerns, naturally. While the folly of playing Michael Walsh at centre-forward has been rightly jettisoned, the presence of Seamus Prendergast there doesn’t inspire confidence. As with Liam Lawlor at full-back, you can’t help but feel we’ve been here before. Then there’s the goalkeeper. Losing Adrian Power was careless. I suppose Stephen O’Keeffe has to start somewhere, but the age gap between him and Clinton Hennessy is scary. Still, the positive outweigh the negatives. Time to exorcise some ghosts.