Banner to set up Galway date
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final: Clare v Wexford (today, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 3pm, live on RTE1)
IT may not have been the route that they wanted to take but Wexford will have been mightily glad to have gotten a competitive fixture under their belt last weekend.
Competitive may be stretching it a tad as the Model county dominated throughout their 11-point quarter-final Qualifier win over Westmeath, but the run out should sharpen them up for their All-Ireland quarter-final with Clare at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this afternoon.
It was their first game since their Leinster Championship loss to Kilkenny five weeks ago and at times their rustiness showed as they chalked up 14 wides and missed a host of great goal chances.
Aidan Nolan and David Dunne excelled for Wexford but manager Davy Fitzgerald will need many more players to step up to the plate if they are to shock his native county.
Clare and quarter-finals have not been on the greatest of terms in recent years. In 2016 they lost to Galway by a couple of goals while Tipperary had three points to spare in a classic encounter in Cork last season.
Managers Gerry O'Connor and Donal Moloney have, on paper, opted against making any changes from the side that lost to Cork in the Munster final, but pre-game switches are expected.
Captain Pat O'Connor is a major concern and sat out a practice match last weekend while there could be late swaps in the half-back line and midfield.
That Munster final loss was a massive blow as they chased their first provincial win since 1998, but the management will be stressing to their players that they weren't far away with Cork having just two points to spare at full-time.
The manner of the defeat, however, is sure to have raised a few doubts amongst the Banner squad.
They were eight points ahead as the clock turned red in the first half, but by the time the teams departed for the break only four separated them after Clare shipped a quick-fire 1-1. The Rebels seized the momentum from there on in to retain the Munster Cup and Clare were left wondering just where they stand.
That's unlikely to be answered today. With the likes of John Conlon and Peter Duggan having excellent seasons, Clare should be able to shake off the Model county.
If they do so, they'll reach a first semi-final since 2013, a year that ended with a Liam MacCarthy success. Lying in wait in the last four this time will be current champions Galway, and only then will we find out what this team is all about.
They should get the chance to dethrone the Tribesmen in two weeks' time anyway.
Clare: D Tuohy; P O'Connor, D McInerney, J Browne; S Morey, C Cleary, J Shanahan; C Gavin, C Malone; P Duggan, T Kelly, D Reidy; P Collins, J Conlon, S O'Donnell