As he prepares to face his former side Waterford in Ennis, manager Davy Fitzgerald will be without five players. Four of the team that started the Banner’s last competitive game, last July’s qualifier defeat to Limerick, are all sidelined for the Division 1A opener.
Cian Dillon, Nicky O’Connell, Conor McGrath and Darach Honan are not expected to feature due to a variety of injuries while former Clare captain Brian O’Connell, who had impressed in Clare’s successful Waterford Crystal Trophy campaign, is also out.
McGrath is still recovering from pre-Christmas surgery on his hip. Honan is unavailable having had an operation done on knee cartilage a couple of months ago. Like McGrath, Dillon has had to have work done on a troublesome hip injury.
Brendan Bugler played 54 minutes of Munster’s Interprovincial semi-final win over Ulster on Sunday and is expected to start in Cusack Park. Colin Ryan was the other Clare player to travel to Armagh and although he didn’t see any action should also be in the team.
Sunday’s game would be seen as a dress rehearsal for the counties’ Munster quarter-final in May if it weren’t for the widely-held view they will face off in the relegation final come April.
Having lost John Mullane and Stephen Molumphy, Waterford are 8/13 favourites with bookmakers to drop to Division 1B with Clare the closest behind them at odds of 3/1. Clare’s victory over Tipperary in the Waterford Crystal final was only their second trophy since their last Munster title in 1998.
Following the win, Fitzgerald pleaded with county supporters to have patience as they find their feet. Waterford also have a number of concerns and they centre on Shane Walsh, Darragh Fives and Maurice Shanahan, all likely to miss out. Pauric Mahony was a used substitute for Munster on Sunday but is not believed to be fully fit.