Shane Stapleton previews the weekend's action, as Clare take on Dublin and Galway face Tipperary in the All-Ireland Hurling quarter-finals.
Visit Betway’s Gaelic sports betting page.
When Tipperary last met Galway in championship action, the latter came out on top thanks to an Aidan Harte goal three minutes from time.
The number two was tracking Seamus Callanan up the field, and the Gort man found himself in the right place at the right time.
This 2020 clash forced the introduction of the black card rule to hurling as a Tipp attacker was unceremoniously hauled to the floor late as they searched for a goal.
These are usually tight games, and from 2014-17 inclusive it became the most intoxicating rivalry in the sport.
Raucous crowds, late winners, heroes and villains, it had it all. Joe Canning, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, Shane Moloney, even stretching back to Lar Corbett nine years ago.
John McIntyre was manager of the Tribe in 2010 when they were three points up late on against his native county, on a day when John O’Brien and then Corbett sparked a late revival.
The sight of the Thurles Sarsfields man collecting a handpass from Pa Bourke before wheeling into a half-space to fire over a winner had that car crash-like effect of feeling as though the world had slowed down for a second.
The yellow-helmetted one did the inevitable, and two performances later had bagged himself both an All-Ireland title and a Hurler of the Year award.
Canning, whose parish of Portumna is separated from Lorrha in Tipp by little more than a bridge, did likewise in 2017 when flooring the old rivals with a dramatic winner from the sideline at the death.
Heading into this game, there’s a feeling that Tipperary are coming to the boil under their new manager Liam Cahill. Of course, there was the blip against Waterford but that may well have been a confluence of factors.
Hype after three strong showings beforehand, fatigue from locking antlers with the Limerick machine a week earlier, and facing an under-siege Deise on a day when key Tipp men were unable to take the field.
The win over Offaly, not to mind the manner of it, was the ideal tonic. A tally of 7-38 was the highest in championship history, and was ruthless to the point of impolite as many teams would ease up when that far ahead.
Doing so would go against Cahill’s history of targeting the arteries of any opposition and piling in the goals where possible.
Galway have had a couple of confidence-boosting turkey shoots of their own against Westmeath and Antrim but they too have come up short in decisive moments.
Yes, they came from well behind against both Dublin and Kilkenny — in the Leinster final — to establish winning positions but on each occasion they dropped the ball. And the opposition buried it.
The brightest trend that manager Henry Shefflin can point to is that his team will not give up. Even in the round-two trip to The Cats, they came from well behind to snatch a draw. It is not just one swallow attempting to make this Galway’s summer.
But they have their flaws. Padraic Mannion has been a brilliant defender for years but his name has been made in the half-back line. Shefflin’s apparent lack of trust in his full-back line options means that the Ahascragh-Fohenagh man has been moved back to the inside line to mark Donal Burke and Eoin Cody in the last two games.
Mannion is not at his best there and neither is Daithi Burke at centre-back, but clearly Galway feel they need his athleticism at six with the hope that Gearoid McInerney can survive at three.
Tipp have fewer issues in terms of square pegs in round holes, but Cahill has turned things around quickly from the jaded look that Liam Sheedy’s team had and the bedraggled outfit we saw last year under Colm Bonnar.
Only one score has separated Galway and Tipperary in 11 of their last 15 championship meetings stretching back to 1987, while three of the last four have been won by one-point margins and the other by two.
Whether you have a slight fancy for one team or the other, there is value on a tight win. The Blue and Gold by 1-3 is 7/2 while the Tribe are 4/1 to sneak through by that same margin.
The challenge for Brian Lohan is that his Clare team are simply expected to beat Dublin to set themselves up for a Croke Park rematch with Kilkenny.
His problem, however, is that they suffered a big hangover post-Munster final defeat to Limerick in 2022, and here we are again. Have they been able to park that loss and recalibrate for a new competition?
Failing to adequately replace injured John Comnlon in last year’s semi-final hammering to The Cats played a big part in The Banner’s downfall, and Lohan’s poor in-game management of the full-back slot without Conor Cleary was decisive against the Treaty.
Dublin forward Burke could be equally effective at 11 where he could drift off Conlon, or at 14 where the full-back slot is still an issue for Clare without Cleary.
Betway have Dublin +6 at 6/5 which seems good value but the trouble for Micheal Donoghue is the pace his capital machine comes up against.
Davy Fitzgerald, Ryan Taylor, Tony Kelly and Aidan McCarthy are all fliers, and there’s only one Eoghan O’Donnell in that Dublin defence. Conor Burke is an excellent hurling centre-back and Daire Gray and Paddy Smyth are powerhouses, but holes may well appear as the game goes on. The Banner for first goal at 8/13 is tempting.