GAA..Clare vs Kilkenny Live All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final On Sat, Jul 2, 2022

Clare vs Kilkenny Live All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final On Sat, Jul 2, 2022

It’s been a while. Sixteen years, in fact, since Clare and Kilkenny last faced each other in championship, a remarkable length of time given the shallow pool that is elite hurling.

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In the Ger Loughnane era, the teams met twice in semi-finals, winning one each: Clare in 1997 and Kilkenny in Brian Cody’s first campaign in charge two years later. Following that, there was a decider comfortably won by the Cats in 2002, a replayed quarter-final in ’04 – the year that Cork edged Kilkenny in a low-scoring finale – and a one-sided semi in ’06 as Cody’s men steamrolled their way to the first of four in a row.

There have been regular league meetings (Kilkenny haven’t won since 2015) but this is only the eighth championship clash overall, mostly as Clare didn’t win Munster for another 63 years after losing the 1932 All-Ireland final to today’s opponents. So there just isn’t the spice there that either side would have for nearer neighbours.

After losing by four points in 1999, Loughnane said that “We have always looked to Kilkenny – that’s the standard to live up to” – it’s hard to imagine he would have been as gracious in defeat to Tipperary or Cork. Okay, Cody did call him “a lunatic from Clare” but that was in 2007 when then-Galway boss Ger had the temerity to question the legality of Kilkenny’s tackling.

Loughnane is long gone and his former full-back Brian Lohan now runs the Clare sideline. Cody carries on like a era-defining monarch. Next year would be his silver jubilee – but he wants that metal on the mantelpiece sooner.

For eight-time All-Ireland winner Eddie Brennan, variety in attack will be key if his county are to come out on the right side.

“As a supporter, you’d be saying that it’ll go down to the wire and we’ll have to play very well to beat them,” he told RTÉ Sport recently. “I think Kilkenny are hurling well. Their back division… they are working well as a unit and weren’t getting caught following lads and being pulled all over the place [against Galway]. It’s up the field then where I think they can be better.

“When the pressure is coming on and they are chasing a match a little bit, they tend to go route one then. I think it takes such bravery to say if they are crowding defence and we are chasing a match, let’s try something a little different. Twice or three times [against Galway] Eoin Murphy hit Adrian Mullen in space and next thing it is straight over the bar. That is the best score because it is the easy score.

“If they’re going to crowd the inside line, then we have to work our shooters out the field and that’s where maybe, an Eoin Cody out to wing forward. If teams are nullifying him, I think he’s far too good of a player for that. We can’t have him scoreless now for two matches in a row and if we’re going to have any ambitions to win an All-Ireland, we need to isolate him and get him in a bit of space.”

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