‘Tough draw’ as Cork begin title defence against Clare

O hAilpin lifts Liam McCarthy

By Colm O’Connor and Brendan O’Brien
CORK, the All-Ireland and Munster SHC champions, begin their title defences with a provincial semi-final against Clare.

The sides last met in August’s All-Ireland semi-final, when the Rebels won by a point, 0-16 to 0-15.

Cork’s Jerry O’Connor is relishing the pairing: "It is a tough draw and not one you would have wanted. But then who would you want in the Munster championship. They are all tough teams. Clare will be right up for this one. They feel they’ve left an All-Ireland semi-final behind them and I think we will see all their experienced men back for one more year. The positives for us is that a game like this will have us focused from early on in the year."

Defeated Munster finalists Tipperary, under new manager Babs Keating, play Limerick in a provincial quarter-final with the winner to play Waterford.

In Leinster, champions Kilkenny await the winners of Westmeath/Dublin. Wexford are on the other side of the draw and will play either Offaly or Laois. Defeated All-Ireland finalists, Galway will once more enter the championship at the Qualifier phase.

In the football draws, Munster champions Kerry will play Waterford in their first championship outing of 2006 with Tipperary awaiting in the semis. Cork face either Limerick or Clare in the other semi-final.

In Leinster, Laois and Dublin could face each other in a last four encounter. Paul Caffrey’s champions are in a quarter against Longford while Laois await the winners of Wicklow and Carlow.

PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP DRAWS

FOOTBALL

Connacht


SFC Quarter-finals: New York v Roscommon (A); London v Mayo (B); Sligo v Galway (C); Leitrim (D). Semi-finals: (Winners of B) v (Winners of D); (Winners of A) v (Winners of C).

Munster

SFC Quarter-finals: Kerry v Waterford; Clare v Limerick.

Semi-finals: Kerry/Waterford v Tipperary; Clare/Limerick v Cork.

Leinster

SFC Preliminary Round: Westmeath v Offaly; Meath v Louth; Wicklow v Carlow.
Quarter-Finals: Kildare v Westmeath/Offaly; Wexford v Meath/Louth; Laois v Wicklow/Carlow; Longford v Dublin.

Semi-Finals: Kildare/Westmeath/Offaly v Wexford/Meath/Louth; Laois/Wicklow/Carlow v Longford/Dublin.

Ulster

SFC Preliminary Round (May 7th)
: Down v Cavan.

Quarter-finals: Armagh v Monaghan; Antrim v Fermanagh; Tyrone v Derry; Donegal v Down/Cavan.
Semi-finals: Armagh/Monaghan v Antrim/Fermanagh; Tyrone/Derry v Donegal/Down/Cavan.

HURLING

Munster


SHC Quarter-final: Tipperary v Limerick.
SHC Semi-finals: Clare v Cork; Waterford v Tipperary/Limerick

Leinster

SHC Quarter-finals: Offaly v Laois; Westmeath v Dublin.

SHC Semi-finals: Wexford v Offaly/Laois; Kilkenny v Westmeath/Dublin.

Ulster

SHC quarter-final: Antrim v London. SHC semi-finals: Derry v New York; Antrim/London v Down.