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manager brian cody kilkenny pic seamus loughran
Compiled by Padraig Kelly

Munster Senior Hurling Championship final

Clare v Cork

(tomorrow, Semple Stadium, 2pm)

IT may have been a new, shiny Munster Championship this year, but the old tradition of the final being one of the highlights of the sporting summer lives on.

After a spectacular start to the new group stages, one that saw heavyweights Tipperary and Waterford eliminated from this year's All-Ireland race, Clare and Cork are the two counties left standing.

This is a clash between a county that usually wins Munster finals and a county that usually loses them.

Clare are chasing their seventh provincial success and their first since 1998. Their win percentage in this particular showpiece event stands ar 22 percent. Cork, by contrast, have won 52 of their previous 81 appearances, a win rate of 64 percent.

Despite those records, it's the Bannermen who carry a very slight favouritism into the game despite losing to Cork in their round one clash.

Gerry O'Connor and Donal Moloney's side responded in perfect fashion to that defeat with wins over Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick.

Much of their progress has been down to the accuracy of dead-ball expert Peter Duggan who has racked up a sensational 1-42 in just four games. That is manna from heaven for a county who have often had to look back on some wayward shooting as the reason for big losses in recent years.

There's also good news surrounding another one of their sharp-shooters, David Reidy. The half-forward was dismissed in their final group game against Limerick, but he won his appeal and he is free to line out. There's cause for concern in defence though with Seadna Morey a serious doubt through injury.

Cork have already brought a season's worth of drama to the Championship and they're still not out of Munster.

They won two and drew two of their four group games with John Meyler's side putting their fans through the ringer en-route to tomorrow's match.

They were drawing with Clare in injury-time of their round one meeting before Séamus Harnedy's late goal put the seal on a valuable win.

They followed that up by throwing away a nine-point lead in their draw with Tipp before Limerick earned a share of the points against them with an injury-time point.

It went to the wire in their final game against a depleted Waterford too with Harnedy again finding the net to put them one up in the 67th minute before the inspiration Bill Cooper and Harnedy tagged on points to secure a final spot.

It has been breathless stuff throughout the Munster campaign and more of the same is expected in Thurles. Clare though can end their 20-year wait for the Munster Cup.

Odds: Clare: Evs D: 9/1 Cork: 11/10

Verdict: Clare

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship final

Kilkenny v Galway

(tomorrow, Croke Park, 4pm)

ALL-IRELAND champions Galway have been in devastating form in Leinster so far with their scoring difference sitting at +30 following four wins from four.

Included in that was a 1-22 to 2-11 victory over Kilkenny and Micheál Donoghue's side look well placed to earn another victory over the Cats in what could yet be the second of three Championship meetings between the two this season.

Joe Canning and Johnny Glynn have shaken off knocks and are set to line out at Croke Park as the Tribesmen attempt to retain the title for the first time following last year's 0-29 to 1-17 win over Wexford.

Kilkenny's stock may have fallen in recent years, but when it comes to the Bob O'Keefe Cup, their manager Brian Cody is the master.

Amazingly, he is striving for his 16th victory since winning it for the first time in 1999, and his current total of 15 is more than Offaly (9), Laois (3) and Galway (2) combined.

On few occasions has he faced such a physically imposing team as Galway though, and as crazy as it sounds when discussing Kilkenny, they simply must make sure that they are not bullied.

They got clogged up in the earlier meeting in Salthill and it's likely they will try and get chalk on their boots tomorrow to pry gaps in the maroon wall that will face them.

Cody's men had some shaky moments in the group stages, most notably against Dublin and Wexford, but once again it Was TJ Reid who got them out of a bind.

Reid has 2-37 to his name already this season and he will be the point at the top of their scoring offensive tomorrow, but he needs help.

And that's the reason why Galway should win this. Canning v Reid will always be the headline act, but the Tribesmen seem to have a much stronger supporting cast.

Odds: Kilkenny: 5/2 D: 10/1 Galway: 2/5

Verdict: Galway

Joe McDonagh Cup final

Carlow v Westmeath

(tomorrow, Croke Park, 1.45pm)

WHEN Carlow lost to Antrim – and lost their heads – in round two, Croke Park looked a long way away in what was expected to be a competition with wafer-thin margins.

Colm Bonnar's side responded with three straight wins though, including a final-day win over Westmeath, to secure a shot at Leinster SHC action in 2019.

Westmeath will also be eyeing that prize up, and they'll not read too much into their loss to Carlow last time out as they had already secured a top-two spot.

Michael Ryan's side may have lost their last two games against Carlow, but they can come out on top here to secure a swap with Offaly.

Odds: Carlow: 11/8 D: 9/1 Westmeath: 8/11

Verdict: Westmeath

Joe McDonagh Cup promotion/relegation play-off

Antrim v Kildare

(today, Athletic Grounds, 12.45pm)

ANTRIM and Kildare released a joint statement in the build up to this encounter lambasting the fact that the competition is moving from six teams to five next year, forcing this play-off and ensuring that Meath automatically drop down.

Missing out on promotion would be harsh for the Lilywhites who put in a terrific performance in last week's 3-19 to 1-11 Christy Ring final win against London.

The Saffrons have reportedly had low numbers at training ahead of this game, but they should still be good enough to secure another crack at the Joe McDonagh Cup next season.

Odds: Antrim: 2/7 D: 11/1 Kildare: 3/1

Verdict: Antrim

All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers round three

Leitrim v Monaghan

(today, Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, 2.30pm)

IT'S Division Four opposition for the second week in a row for Malachy O'Rourke's Monaghan and after beating Waterford by 27 points last time out, they should ease through once again in Carrick-on-Shannon. Kieran Hughes, who missed last week's game with a hamstring injury, may not be risked here.

Odds: H: 16/1 D: 40/1 A: 1/66

Verdict: Monaghan

Armagh v Clare

(today, Athletic Grounds, 3pm)

ARMAGH were drawn out second for this game but as a Division Three side, they were entitled to home advantage. Ethan Rafferty remains a long-term absentee for Kieran McGeeney's side but Paul Hughes may come back into the reckoning. Clare bounced back from their hammering by Kerry with a narrow win over Offaly. They've already won in Newry this year and will be confident of another victory on Ulster soil.

Odds: H: 4/7 D: 8/1 A: 15/8

Verdict: Armagh

Cavan v Tyrone

(today, Brewster Park, 5pm)

CAVAN'S chances have been significantly boosted by the news that Dara McVeety and Conor Moynagh are free to play after winning their appeals after picking up red cards against Down last week. Killian Clarke could also return from injury. They will need everyone available against a Tyrone side that still doesn't look at their best, but who have done enough to come through tricky fixtures against Meath and Carlow. They should grab another win in Brewster,

Odds: H: 4/1 D: 12/1 A: 2/9

Verdict: Tyrone

Kildare v Mayo

(today, St Conleth's Park, 7pm)

WITH the build-up being dominated by a row about whether this game would be held at Croke Park or Newbridge, it will be a relief for both sides to just get out and play. The absence of Seamus O'Shea (shoulder) is a huge blow for Mayo but they should still make round four of the Qualifiers for the third consecutive season.

Odds: H: 5/2 D: 8/1 A: 4/9

Verdict: Mayo

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