Limerick and Clare face off in the Munster Hurling Championship Semi Final on June 4 in Semple Stadium. This will be third year in a row that the sides have met in the Championship with both teams winning one.
A late John Fitzgibbon point secured the win for Limerick in the Munster quarter final in 2015 whilst Clare overcame a Limerick side that never got going last summer.
Speaking at the launch of the Sky Sports coverage of the 2017 championship O’Connor feels that the talent is in the county to achieve success and the time is certainly right. In 2013 when Clare stormed to the All-Ireland title the average age of the squad was 23 and the county had won back to back All-Ireland U21 titles. Much was expected of this golden generation of Clare players.
Likewise, Limerick won the Munster Championship in 2013, only to be beaten by Clare in the All-Ireland semi final, and reached the semi final in 2014 only to narrowly lose to eventual champions Kilkenny. Furthermore, Limerick won the All-Ireland U21 Championship in 2015 showcasing the talent in the county.
However, neither sides have hit the heights they both promised. Yet, the winner of the Munster clash will be guaranteed at least an All-Ireland quarter final berth, something which O’Connor thinks Clare are in a better position to achieve should the injured duo of Conor McGrath and Pat O’Connor recover in time for the clash.
O’Connor is keen to see McGrath in particular this summer, “He’ll be good to go, you just hope he gets a run of games and gets back to the form of 2013,”
“On his day he’s a match-winner, and not every county has players like McGrath that can do special things and win a match for you, so he’s massively important.
“Having himself and Pat O’Connor who missed the league, these guys are going to be fresh and they’re going to bring something to the group.”
He also feels that the management pairing of Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor will add a new dimension to the already potent Clare attack,
“I think we’ll see a different philosophy, a different style of play.”
“Obviously with Davy we were very structured, we played a sweeper and I think in a way teams figured us out a little bit. We blunted our sharpest weapons.
“I do think we’ll be more expressive this year, I think we’ll see more from Conor McGrath, Shane O Donnell who’s back fit and Tony Kelly. If Clare can get those lads playing to the level they played to in 2013, as I said, you know, Clare will be a match for a lot of the top teams.”
This is exactly what John Kiely will want the public thinking however. There is nothing Limerick enjoy more than being underdogs, and this summer should hopefully see Limerick proving O’Connor wrong.