Clare and Cats unchanged for U21 final showdown

Both Clare and Kilkenny have named unchanged line-ups for tomorrow’s Bord Gáis All-Ireland U-21 hurling championship final in Thurles (7pm) from the teams that defeated Antrim and Galway respectively in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

As in both those games, however, there are likely to be several switches even before a ball is struck.

In their romp past Antrim, the Clare changes started in the half-back line, where Seadna Morey and Patrick O’Connor (two of eight seniors on the Clare team) switched wings, as did Tony Kelly and Aaron Cunningham in the half-forward (two more senior stars).

That game proved no test whatsoever for Clare, a 4-24 to 0-8 cakewalk, but this combination has already been well tested in Munster, a big win over favourites Waterford in the semi-final, then a real test of character against Tipperary in the final.

They came through that test, a late goal from substitute Niall Arthur proving the match-winner, and, says wing-back O’Connor, that game was also the making of this team.

“Coming in off what some people term, ‘the perfection of the Waterford game’, we came into a sort of a dog-fight against Tipp. We found out a lot about our team in that game that needed to be found out and probably wouldn’t have been found out against Antrim.

“So coming off the back of the Munster final I thought we were in a healthy position, though we still had to deal with Antrim — we still had to beat what was put in front of us.

“So now coming up to the final I think we know where our strengths lie. We know where we want to play – what area of the field we want to play the ball, so I think our preparations have been ideal.”

Kilkenny had a much sterner test in their semi-final over Galway, another side studded with senior stars. For that game Kilkenny made several switches from the announced starting line-up, and those same switches will probably happen tomorrow from that same announced starting line-up. Cillian Buckley, who has already figured for the Kilkenny senior team, started at midfield against Galway with Ollie Walsh shifting to the wing. John Power (brother of senior star Richie) switched from full-forward to the 40, with Pádraig Walsh (brother of Tommy) going to the edge of the square, though those two did inter-change during that game.

Corner-forwards, Ger Aylward and the giant Walter Walsh also switched.

Should the industrious Pádraig Walsh start at centre-forward and Power at full-forward as named, however, then along with the lethal Aylward and the dangerous Walter Walsh, this will be a very potent line, and will pose the greatest threat to Clare winning its second title at this grade in four years and only its second in all.

O’Connor and team captain Conor McGrath are the only survivors from that historic first Clare win, in 2009, but this team is, if anything, an even more talented combination.

KILKENNY: D Walsh; J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy; L Harney, R Doyle, J Lyng; G Brennan, C Buckley; K Kelly, J Power, O Walsh; G Aylward, P Walsh, W Walsh.

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), C McInerney.

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