Tipperary v Clare @ Semple Stadium, Thurles
Clare drew first blood in their derby trilogy with Tipperary but the war will only start raging this Saturday in what will be expected to be a considerable backlash.
After all, their recent Munster League Final display suggested that Tipperary had their minds fixed further afield from the Gaelic Grounds as they were patently sluggish and
First and foremost, having witnessed Tony Kelly pull the strings in a free role, Liam Sheedy will be eager to clamp down on his influence as centre-back Seamus Kennedy was unsure whether to follow the talisman or not. Dragging the defensive anchor out of his position allowed Clare to exploit Tipperary’s lack of pace in their last line where Banner full-forward duo of Colin Guilfoyle and Cathal McInerney could effectively prosper while runners from deep also ensured that Clare would raid for four goals last time out.
Defensive solidity will be Tipperary’s priority this Saturday but it remains to be seen what Clare have up their sleeve to counteract the expected increased attention on Kelly.
Of course, a lot will depend on what line-ups actually take to the field as with the National League effectively lessening its relevance in the wake of next year’s revitalisation of 12 Division 1 teams spread over two evenly-matched groups, the opportunity to experiment further
Still, following their perfect start to 2019, whatever the starting team, Clare certainly won’t lack confidence as they have already clambered over three tough hurdles so far.
Being at home, Tipperary will be under more pressure to perform but after three successive competitive victories over the Premier, there’s no reason why the Banner can’t make it a fourth with some tactical and personnel tweaks.