Waterford and Clare are convening in a final for the first time since 1994, a decider the Déise triumphed in two years after they had defeat the same opposition at the final stage. But battling against tradition in the U21 hurling grade is nothing new to Clare. Their wait for a first Munster crown has dragged on interminably with last year’s controversial reversal against Tipperary a shattering loss to sustain. Yet Clare have several survivors from that game and will be fiercely driven here.
Waterford have made two changes from their semi-final success, drafting in a new midfield pairing of Shane Walsh and Karl Duggan in place of Sean O’Hare and John Gorman.
In contrast Clare boss John Minogue has gone with an unchanged line-up. Both teams enter this match on the back of sensational semi-final performances. Clare thumped Limerick by 15 points while Waterford sprung a big surprise in ousting Tipperary by a convincing margin.
In that context both teams are clearly rich with attacking talent. Maurice Shanahan’s sublime point-taking and Tomas Ryan’s goal-getting helped Waterford shoot down Tipperary, while Clare’s full-forward line of Darach Honan, Caimin Morey and Colin Ryan fired a combined 4-13 against Limerick. The defensive contributions will thus be critical, Waterford need big displays from Noel Connors and Stephen Daniels while Clare’s key backs are Ciaran O’Doherty and Enda Barrett.
Given the talent and form of the sides, this could be a really cracking encounter. The match has been feverishly anticipated in both counties and there’s a guaranteed full house expected in the Fraher Field, with Waterford backed by a bumper home support.
But Clare’s hunger for a first title should be insatiable and last year’s experience could be vital. Their full-forward line can be the difference here.
WATERFORD: A Power; J Maher, S Fives, N Connors; P Mahony, S Daniels, D O’Sullivan; S Walsh, K Duggan; T Connors, P Murray, M Shanahan; B O’Sullivan, S Casey, T Ryan.
CLARE: D Tuohy; J Gunning, E Glynn, C O’Doherty; D O’Donovan, C Duggan, E Barrett; N O’Connell, L Markham; J Conlon, S Collins, C O’Donovan; D Honan, C Morey, C Ryan.