When hurlings fans of the future look back on the annals of history, the 2013 season will stick out like a sore thumb.
It has been a year of shocks and a year of fantastic hurling which has put the football championship to shame. From Kilkenny failing in Leinster and then again in the playoffs to Tipperary falling at the first hurdle in Munster. From the resurgence of Limerick lead by the cool calm Corkman Joe Allen to Cork avenging their Munster final defeat.
There has been an building anticipation in the game about the quality of hurlers being produced in Clare, having 5 of their under 21 stars starting the semi final against Limerick all that was needed was the right man at the helm. Davy Fitzgerald might not the type of character you would like to get stuck in a lift with but he has succeeded in creating a unity and belief in this Clare team not seen since Ger Loughnane broke Clare’s 81 year hoodoo.
JImmy Barry Murphy’s Cork team go into this match as slight underdogs with the bookies despite putting in an epic performance against Dublin. That was a game in which players were knocking points over from increasing outrageous angles and distances, it is very doubtful that Cork’s sharp shooters will be given the time and space against Clare. One of the interesting tactically battles that is emerging is how Murphy will deal with Fitzgerald’s preferred tactic of an extra defender. If Murphy sends a man back with the extra defender, overcrowding the Clare half of the field, it will leave wide open spaces for the Clare forwards to pick their scores. Cork’s ace in the hole is their goalkeeper Nash and not just for his ability to score long range points. Nash’s distribution both long and short is one of Cork’s biggest weapons and it will be his ability to keep the Clare team guessing on the puck out that may have a telling influence on where the Liam McCarthy trophy ends up.
It is 16 years since we have had an al Munster All Ireland Hurling final. While Cork won when these teams met in the first round of the Munster Championship many commenters put this down to an over confidence on the part of this young Clare team, one thing’s for sure when this teams line out at Croke Park no one will be taking the opposition lightly.
Clare: Patrick Kelly; Domhnall O’Donovan, David McInerney, Cian Dillon; Brendan Bugler, Patrick Donnellan, Patrick O’Connor; Colm Galvin, Colin Ryan; John Conlon, Tony Kelly, Conor Ryan; Pádraic Collins, Darach Honan, Conor McGrath.
Cork: Anthony Nash; Stephen McDonnell, Shane O’Neill, Conor O’Sullivan; Brian Murphy, Christopher Joyce, William Egan; Lorcan Mc Loughlin, Daniel Kearney; Seamus Harnedy, Pa Cronin, Conor Lehane; Luke O’Farrell, Patrick Horgan, Jamie Coughlan.
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)