Tipperary v Clare is a game both sides must win today – a throwback to the old Munster championship with pretty much everything at stake so early in the season.
Obody gave Tipp a great chance last weekend, including me, but when I think back to that clash at Walsh Park, I think it’s a game they should have won.
Waterford put on their worst performance of the year and the tight field, poor weather and refereeing decisions all played in Tips’ favour.
But the blow of that result to Colm Bonnar’s men was softened somewhat by an all-around decent performance. There were positives in what we saw from Mark Kehoe, Cathal Barrett, Ronan Maher and the scoring of Noel McGrath.
Both Tipp and Clare need two wins from their remaining games to stay alive in the All-Ireland series and given that both still have Limerick to play today is a must for Tipp and pretty close for Clare.
Tipp can’t hold on to a moral sense of victory last weekend.
You must make the most of this feat and push it again to overcome an improved Clare side.
They beat Clare by three points last year after taking an extremely dubious penalty which tonight’s referee James Owens somehow saw, along with an accidental goal from Séamus Callanan.
Since then, Clare’s internal struggles have vanished from the airwaves for good, their fascination with the nomad Davy has faded and they have key men back in Shane O’Donnell, Diarmuid Ryan and Peter Duggan.
Combined with the loss of personnel, there’s a very good argument that Clare can close last year’s three-point deficit and emerge victorious.
However, there is one big unknown and uncontrollable for both teams: how the rules will be implemented.
It’s no exaggeration to say that two of last weekend’s big three games were decided by refereeing. That’s not how things should be.
Nowadays we don’t really have rules when it comes to slingshots – we have referee opinions. These change each day on key issues such as hand passing, number of steps, height of a tackle and time allowed to take a free kick.
How they are implemented depends on the time of year, the trend of referee-evaluators and the influence of the audience on the day.
You can even switch between the first half (blow it all) and the second half (let it flow).
Does anyone really think the rules in the All Ireland Finals will be implemented the same way? What is now fashionable among experts has already gone out of the window.
But that’s not a rant. The solutions are obvious and are implemented on our TV screens every weekend, but not in ATMs.
Rugby referees meet with teams and managers when the focus or rules change and communicate with key set pieces during the week of play.
They meet both sides again before the game. They answer questions during the game and the rugby assessors provide transparent feedback to the referees and teams afterwards.
In rugby, expectations are clear and lines of communication are open.
However, in hurling no one knows how the rules will be implemented by an official on any given Sunday or even in each half of hurling. It can not go on like this.
How many full-time paid umpires would we need to adequately cover inter-county hurling at the highest level? At most eight.
There are many full-time employees in the GAA, and it’s long overdue to have a handful of umpires who can take responsibility, be accountable, and get things right. It would match the efforts of the players and management.
But back to skidding. At its core, it’s simply what Tipp needs to do to win today: reduce Tony Kelly’s influence. The best man for the man marking job, even if he is on the half line, is Cathal Barrett.
What else can Tipp do to get over the line? How about starting John McGrath in forwards?
He won seven straight Man-of-the-Match awards at last year’s club championship in Tipp before last Sunday’s referee Johnny Murphy sent him off for no reason against Ballygunner.
He looked dangerous in the few minutes he played last week and, most importantly, he’s a finisher.
Clare won’t want to see him for 70 minutes today.
Clare has size and presence in her attacking line and Tipp needs to get her match-ups right to counter that, using Séamus Kennedy and Barry Heffernan against the big men with the likes of Craig Morgan versus speed dealers like Shane O’Donnell.
Clare, meanwhile, will need John Conlon to physically dominate. This is their best start to a championship in Brian Lohan’s three years in charge, so they’ll approach this opener with confidence.
After seeing what happened in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last weekend, both sides will believe they can beat Cork in the coming weeks.
So this is the game that will likely decide third place in Munster – the difference between surviving and advancing – or having summer end before it’s even really started.
My head says draw. My heart says Tipperary at two.
Will I be surprised if Clare wins? no
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/hurling/lar-corbett-today-is-must-win-for-both-tipp-and-clare-and-i-think-it-will-be-a-draw-41582516.html Lar Corbett: Both Tipp and Clare need to win today – and I think it’s going to be a draw