Waterford v Limerick:
Hard enough to know what's going on here. When one manager releases a team-sheet that's brazen nonsense and the other thinks he's more put upon than Brian Cowen, it's difficult to parse what to expect from their teams. A general prediction though. The standard won't be as significantly in advance of last weeks shambles as some hope for. There is still an element of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic about Limerick's forward options. In fairness James Ryan rewarded his manager's faith and dispelled this quarters doubts with his second-half industry. Dave Breen showed enough to start in the real world, as opposed to Justin's fantasy team sheet. Yet they still seem one corner forward short, not to mind that Andrew O' Shaughnessy was as relatively anonymous as was feared last Sunday. At wing-back Denis Molony, not for the first time in an injury riddled career, showed flashes of brilliance. Limerick may also hope for Seamus Hickey to have a more consistent influence on the game.
But if Limerick are inching forward, Waterford are running to stand still. Ken McGrath's absence has made the headlines but younger brother Eoin's dropping from the team leaves a large chasm based on his excellent 2008. Last week the selection seemed to have merits, with a decent bench to fall back on. Now it looks wing and a prayer stuff. The failure to re-instate Aidan Kearney could be regretted. It's been many the year since Tony Browne played mid-field. The balance of the team looks unwieldy, especially if, as one suspects Stephen Molumphy has to come firefighting back to lar na pairce. How does extra-time grab anyone?
Galway v Kilkenny:
An esteemed Sunday newspaper hurling correspondent constantly seeks to play down Kilkenny's supposed strength in depth. In general he doth protest too much and admirably does Brian Cody's bidding for him. But it really ought to be sorely tested this evening. The importance of Noel Hickey to the side is understated, not least because JJ Delaney tends to carefully mind only his own patch in his sojourns at no.3. Thus Michael Kavanagh, recently returned from injury and Jackie Tyrell will be more on an island than of yore, also missing the wing-back version of JJ and Brian Hogan to protect them from outside the castle walls. Hogan suffered from the reticence of All-Star selectors to give the cats a clean sweep of the defensive positions last autumn, But he was unfussy, physicality personified and John Tennyson's injury problems have disrupted his career at this level. Finally as for the person in a GAA chat room this week who said Cha Fitzpatrick isn't in Shane McGrath's league. Well........ agree to disagree might be the best way to put it. Upfront the selection of Martin Comerford is slightly surprising given that T.J Reid and Richie Hogan, who would comfortably make every other team in Ireland, are at his heels. Perhaps it is felt that Comerford is a horse for the course of Galway's soft physical centre.
And yet........ this blogger has bored whole nations with his annoyance on the "Galway have the talent" canard. Lets have a look at 1-12 then shall we. The player with very comfortably the best record at this level, Ollie Canning, last excelled at inter-county in 2005. Fergal Moore would likely be more comfortable at corner-back. John Lee is decidedly undercooked in a week that the term was reserved for South-African rugby players. Those not in the know might be interested to garner that we have just referred to their three most likely prospects. But with the full-forward line and the primed to explode Aengus Callnan the Tribesmen have some serious ammunition. Niall Healy has form against this opposition and Damien Hayes may be reborn with the long shadow of the Feakle man a distant memory. Word has it the u-21 full-forward shows promise.
If Galway can force a lot of one-to-one match ups they will likely put up a big score. But the big bad wolf like cat will blow enough of a gale at the other end to get over the line by four or five points.
Wexford v Dublin:
Wexford's display against Offaly was almost too good to be true albeit that the Faithful sagged disappointingly. So some sectors of their team will come under greater scrutiny tomorrow. Much of what Wexford do goes under the radar but to this blogger they had the best full-back line in the country in 2007. But Malachy Travers seems to have slipped a tad and Keith Rossiter has essentially been less than 100% fit since. The lovely louche combination of striking and athleticism that Eoin Quigley brings to the party can hardly fail to be missed for the second day in a row. Upfront the shortage of specialised corner-forwards may well bring to mind another denizen of the treatment table Barry Lambert.
But will any two of those three be missed anymore by the Slaneysiders than Dublin will bemoan the absence of Roan Fallon and Ross O' Carroll. The latter especially would have been a boon to a half-forward line that seems to have been picked to achieve a no-score draw. Wexford still seem the more convincing selection but could it just be the day where destiny and a dollop of luck goes Dublin's way. As James O' Conner said during the week, the prospect of a tanning from Kilkenny might be more appealing for them than it is for Wexford.
Tipperary v Clare:
Move along, nothing to see here. Well that's what the bookies and many of the pundits say. The nervous propensity of Tipp's corner backs to foul in the quarter-final; of trifling concern. Their absence of natural wing-backs; merely a detail. In fairness the premiers lack of consistency at half-forward is more of an exasperation than an extreme annoyance, given that it has very rarely put them on the wrong side of a scoreline in the last 18 months. Also the two current most important players Conor O' Mahony and Eoin Kelly should have regained much of their match fitness.
If Clare strike against the head, the league might as well be shelved immediately as it will be declared (pun just noticed) utterly worthless. Any new Clare revival, to aptly take the title of a Stockton's Wing song, will require Phillip Brennan to put behind him any thoughts that the nickname 'calamity' might soon be bestowed. Also James McInerney must grasp his responsibilities with both hands and not be overawed by the fact that Clare full-backs have fallen away with the rapidity of Spinal Tap drummers since Frank Lohan's retirement only months ago. The banner's experienced quintet of Markham, Griffin, Carmody, McMahon and Gilligan are likely drinking with their manager in his saloon of the last chance variety in Scariff, although in Gilligans case it is likely of his choosing. Teams usually overstate the extent to which they have been written off but since the actual talent deficit between the teams is far smaller than is generally perceived, you would despair for the Clare hurling if they don't at the very least die a ferociously contested death.