Conor McGrath believes the cut-throat nature of Division 1A may have counted against Tipperary and Kilkenny in their recent meetings with Clare.
The Banner claimed a second successive Division 1A scalp in Sunday’s league semi-final and, pointing to how Waterford won the Division 1 title from Division 1B last year, McGrath suggests the second rung of the competition may have been a blessing in disguise for Clare.
“I suppose the 1A matches are so intense that maybe the 1A teams come out of the league stages a bit tired and worn out from it whereas the 1B teams are a bit fresher. I don’t know but the last couple of years have shown that anyway with Limerick winning up in Dublin as well. Division 1B will be no excuse for us come the final or the championship. It’s still a decent standard of hurling.”
In beating Kilkenny, Clare stretched their 100% record in 2016 to 11 matches although McGrath admits some of their victories came against weaker teams.
“It was a bit different in 1B matches against lower opposition. I’m sure a lot of the 1A teams would have 100% records as well if they were in 1B. It helped us to get a bit of momentum after a couple of bad years.”
McGrath says Clare won’t be indulging in playing possum against Waterford in the May 1st final despite facing them in a Munster semi-final five weeks later.
“None of the Clare players have played in a league final before. We would love to win it and I’m sure Waterford would love to win it again. They are two separate games and we’ll be going out to win the league final in its own right.”
Clare co-captain Tony Kelly endorsed McGrath’s comments and claimed there will be little resemblance between the two games. “I don’t think Clare have been in the final, let alone win one, for a number of years (2005). We set our stall from the start of the year that every game we play we want to go out and win it, be it a challenge match or a league match or championship.
“Pople might make a lot of it this week that we’re playing the same team in the space of a few weeks. The league final is going to be completely different to what championship is. There’s no two games the same, no matter if you’re playing the same team. We’ll look forward to it, they’ll look forward to it as well. It’s another game to see lads heading into championship as well which is always a plus.”
Kelly, who scored three points coming off the bench against Kilkenny, echoed Davy Fitzgerald’s claim they had been written off prior to the game. “Coming down here to Thurles not many people were giving us a chance. We always have a performance like that in us but I don’t think it was a perfect performance; there are always areas to improve. These games are a building block because it gives us a chance to see more lads ahead of the championship. That’s all these are, they’re a confidence-builders. If you’re winning them and it’s all the good when you’re building coming into the championship but we all know June 5 is the big one .”
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