*Clare defender, Rory Hayes. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
RORY HAYES and Cian Nolan are battling out for the left corner back spot on the Clare team which is expected not to show any major changes.
Two-time All Star nominee Hayes was substituted after eight minutes in Clare’s quarter-final win over Wexford. The twenty five year old had been cleared of a one-match suspension on a technicality in the days preceding the game.
Brian Lohan and his management wasted no time in offering the Wolfe Tones clubman an opportunity to settle into the Wexford game and made an early call to whip one of their top performers in this year’s championship.
Cian Nolan who made his championship debut in May against Waterford and replaced Paul Flanagan in the Munster Final defeat to Limerick was then given the task of marshalling Lee Chin, a job he didn’t shirk from. Preparations in advance of the Wexford game had planned for Nolan to be marking Chin in the event that an appeal to clear Hayes of the suspension was unsuccessful.
Who is selected at number four is the big decision for Lohan and his management with Hayes tipped to get the nod having impressed with his determination and attitude in the past fortnight.
Inagh/Kilnamona’s Aidan McCarthy is expected to be included in the matchday twenty six for the first time this year. A nominee for Young Hurler of the Year in 2021, Aidan sustained a broken bone in his leg following a workplace accident in December which has kept him out of action for the county all season. He was introduced as a substitute for Inamona at half-time in their final outing of the Clare Cup where they overcame Cratloe to retain their status and relegate Conor Earley’s charges.
McCarthy’s return allied with that of Mark Rodgers and Aron Shanagher’s availability for selection and the impact of Shane Meehan on each occasion boosts the attacking options at the disposal of the Banner management.
Captain Tony Kelly started in the full-forward line for Clare’s quarter-final win, the setting of Croke Park is set to see the secondary school teacher be given a roaming role which may see him start in a similar spot but he is expected to be venturing more around the half-forward line this weekend.
Kilkenny have not been in action for the past four weeks since their Leinster Final success against Galway who are managed by one of their greatest hurlers, Henry Shefflin. Full-back Huw Lawlor will have benefitted from the extra month, he returned to the side for the Galway win after a hand injury and will be battling against Peter Duggan this weekend.
Brian Cody is expected to name both Conor Fogarty and Adrian Mullen at midfield to face off with Ryan Taylor and Cathal Malone. Where exactly Cody deploys star man TJ Reid will be of intrigue, the Ballyhale Shamrocks ace lined out at centre forward in the provincial final and may be pushed to the inside line to create a dangerous goal threat.