Four years ago, 2008, was the last time the final was held in Cusack Park and it was the closest game, a one-point margin.
1999, again in Cusack Park, was the most memorable for all the wrong reasons for no-one who was there will ever forget how toxic the atmosphere on the field, sidelines and stands became.
That was a turning-point. People came to their senses and though the rivalry remains as strong as ever, the poison has been removed. That isn’t to say that Cusack Park won’t be a cauldron this evening. Tipperary may be going for the Munster hurling grand slam of senior, minor, intermediate and U21 titles, a feat only Cork have achieved (2005) but Clare have the greater incentive.
Denied by Limerick in the All-Ireland senior qualifiers, no fewer than nine members of this Clare U21 starting side (Seadna Morey, Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly, Conor McGrath, Aaron Cunningham, Paudge Collins, Colin Ryan, Cathal McInerney and Patrick O’Connor) were panellists on the senior side while Tipperary have just one – Seán Curran.
If Clare are to maintain the progress made at the top level, then it’s arguable they must win here. Tipperary, however, have some ‘previous’ this year when it comes to stopping more fancied outfits. They pipped Cork in the first round by a point and overwhelmed Limerick in their semi-final. They weren’t intimidated by all the senior talent those sides boasted and won’t be intimidated here with Curran, Denis Maher and team captain John O’Dwyer providing the leadership.
But still expect Clare to sneak it.
Tipperary: Paul Ryan; S Maher, A Ryan, Pa Ryan; W Ryan, B Stapleton, J Cahill; D Maher, D McCormack; J O’Dwyer (c), S Curran, N O’Meara; J Forde, C Hogan, L McGrath.
Clare: R Taaffe; P Flanagan, D McInerney, K Ryan; S Morey, C Ryan, P O’Connor; C Galvin, S Golden; A Cunningham, P Collins, T Kelly; C O’Connell, C McGrath (c), D O’Halloran.