Just four months on from Kerry’s All Ireland defeat to Dublin, the inter-county footballers of Munster spring back into life in the provinces annual McGrath Cup.
Just like in the Munster Championship, the Kingdom County have claimed the last two titles defeating Clare 0-13 to 1-07 last year having beaten UCC 1-11 to 0-09 in 2010 however having opted to sit out this year’s competition, the cup has a very open look to it.
This year competition opens with Waterford facing IT Tralee, Clare up against UL and Tipperary at home to LIT in the Preliminary round.
Waterford v IT Tralee – throw in 2pm Referee Keith O’Brien
The big news for Waterford will be the absence of Thomas and Maurice O’Gorman who have been called in the Hurling panel for 2012 and will not feature. The Twins, lynchpins of the Football side in recent seasons, come from the same club, Fourmilewater, as the new county hurling manager Michael Ryan however the decision has not been well received by the county’s football supporters.
Waterford last won a McGrath in 1981, their one and only success at this level and last year they lost out to Clare in the semi finals, a goal from David O’Connor separating the sides however they will be strong favourites against an IT Tralee side that has lost their last five games in this competition, their last victory coming in 2005.
The winner of this tie will travel to Cork to face Cork institute of technology in the quarterfinals.
Clare vs UL- throw in 2pm, Doonbeg, Referee Brian Tyrell
Clare’s Footballers will be up against a familiar face when UL travels to Doonbeg for the season’s opener with UL currently managed by St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield keeper Declan O’Keefe.
Clare, the 2008 winners, were runners up last season beating UCC, CIT and Waterford on their way to the final before losing to Kerry
UL meanwhile bowed out at this stage last season, losing 2-14 to 0-13 to Tipperary however the 2010 runners up represent a strong challenge for the 10 times winners and with the likes of Cork’s David Niblock, Ambrose O’Donovan and Kerry midfielder Anthony Maher should prove a match for their hosts.
Clare manager Michael McDermott will delay naming his side until before throw in and he sweats on the fitness of a number of players, however the Cavan man looks set to blood youth and experience as he looks to build on last season’s final appearance.
Clare will be strong favourites to win the game, with some bookies placing them at 1/2 with Cork awaiting the victors of this game in the quarter final.
Tipperary v Limerick Institute of Technology – throw in 2pm, Clonmel, Referee Jer Lynch
Tipperary manager John Evans looks set to include some of the county’s All Ireland winning Minor side when he names his team to face LIT.
Evan’s side bowed out to Waterford last year in the quarter finals having defeat Limerick’s other third level college UL in the preliminary round.
LIT meanwhile may be glad that Kerry are not in this year’s competition after they lost 2-18 to 0-05 last year in the quarter final however Tipperary, in keeping with the favourites tag doled out to fellow provincial rivals Waterford and Clare should be too strong for the Limerick college.
There is a real chance of a semi final place at stake this year for the winners with Waterford IT, who has yet to taste victory in the cup, up next.
Note for all games:
Admission to all games is €5
Under 16’s enter free
Extra time will be played if needed