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State of Play - the All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals

Clare's Tony Kelly and Wexford's Lee Chin will be key men for their teams in Saturday's All-Ireland SHC quarter-final. 

Clare's Tony Kelly and Wexford's Lee Chin will be key men for their teams in Saturday's All-Ireland SHC quarter-final. 

By Tom Stakelum

As we move gradually into the heart of the Irish Summer there is nothing gradual about the pace in which the 2024 All-Ireland SHC is ramping up.

This week FBD Semple Stadium prepares for its final day in the 2024 SHC sun, while the four teams involved hope that their days have just begun.

Cork, Dublin, Clare, and Wexford have all had contrasting seasons to date but one thing remains true - it is on Tom Semple’s famous field where they will learn their fate. The general consensus is that the men from Munster will prevail, but Dublin and Wexford will be quietly scheming to put a sting in their tail.

Let’s now take a look at the ‘State of Play’ for each of these counties as they hope to reach the semi-final stage of the 2024 GAA All-Ireland SHC.

Exciting Cork forward Alan Connolly. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Exciting Cork forward Alan Connolly. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Game 1:

Saturday, June 22

Cork v Dublin, FBD Semple Stadium, Thurles, 1.15pm


How they qualified: 3rd place finishers in Munster, preliminary quarter-final winners

Biggest Strength: Frightening Pace

Danger Man: Alan Connolly

State of Play: Favourites

Having lost their opening two Munster SHC bouts there were whispers among the hurling public that Cork’s year was over. However, much like the Germans in soccer, never write off The Rebels. With their backs pinned to the SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh wall by the seemingly unbreakable Limerick tide they found themselves four points down with four minutes to go. With their season on the line The Rebels rose from their ashes, outscoring their all-conquering counterparts by 1-04 to 0-01 in the closing stages to keep their head above water. That miraculous triumph super-charged Cork's confidence, resulting in a statement victory over their bitter rivals Tipperary in Round four in which scintillating sharpshooter Alan Connolly bagged a hat-trick for the ages.

This was enough to reach a preliminary quarter-final against Offaly in Glenisk O’Connor Park. Buoyed by their recent victories in the Joe McDonagh and oneills.com U20 showpieces, Offaly put up a stern test against a much fancied Cork side. However, the Leeside men eventually came through with nine points to spare with their red eyes now firmly fixed on the boys in blue.

There is no doubt that they will be favourites for this quarter-final clash and if they can bring a performance close to the lofty levels of the Limerick or Tipperary games then Dublin will have their work cut out. As a sidenote: Keep an eye on Patrick Horgan’s tally in this game. If he scores eleven points or more, he will overtake the mercurial TJ Reid to become the leading scorer in All-Ireland SHC history. Watch this space…

Dublin hurler, Donal Burke.

Dublin hurler, Donal Burke.


How they qualified: Leinster runners-up

Biggest Strength: Running game

Danger Man: Dónal Burke

State of Play: Underdogs

A Leinster championship that contained a valiant performance against Kilkenny in Parnell Park, impressive victories over Antrim at home and Galway in Salthill, and an eighteen point drubbing in the Leinster Final at the hands of the Cats. These four showings perhaps highlight the biggest blight on Dublin hurling over the past ten years – inconsistency. The metropolitan men have threatened to break down the established Leinster order with big wins over Galway and a few near misses against Kilkenny. However, when it comes to putting a string of high level performances together or performing in provincial finals, they have been lacking.

Despite all this Micheál Donoghue’s side have shown a clear style of play combined with an influx of vibrant youth this season. When they can get their short-passing, hard-running game in motion, they are a match for any side. This was evident for all to see when Conor Burke dispatched a bullet into Eoin Murphy’s net in the round robin clash against Kilkenny to cap off a brilliant, off the shoulder running move, resulting in one of the goals of the summer so far.

If the ‘Boys in Blue’ are to put it up to the rampaging rebels, then Dónal Burke, the sharpshooting sniper from Na Fianna, must have a big impact on the game. Having amassed 2-59 in this year’s championship so far, Burke is proving yet again that he is among the finest forwards in the land. If Dublin manage to defy the odds and prolong their summer against the much fancied Cork, the Na Fianna man might just be in the frame for a PwC All-Star, one which he surely deserves for the years of stellar service he has given the capital.

The Dubs will want to right the wrongs of their anti-climatic Leinster Final performance. With all eyes on the rebels, this might just be the perfect opportunity.

Clare's David Fitzgerald in Munster SHC action. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Clare's David Fitzgerald in Munster SHC action. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Game 2:

Saturday, June 22

Clare v Wexford, FBD Semple Stadium, Thurles, 3.15PM


How they qualified: Munster runners-up

Biggest Strength: Goal threat

Danger Man: David Fitzgerald

State of Play: Favourites

Having just lost out to Limerick in the Munster Final for the third year running, ensuring the wait for provincial success stretches to twenty-six years, Clare could be forgiven for feeling despondent. However, there is little time to wallow in this year’s rip-roaring, helter-skelter hurling championship, as Brian Lohan will know, particularly with a Rossiter-riled up Wexford on the horizon.

Following their Round 1 defeat to the Treaty men, the Banner battalion rallied to three vital wins, including their first ever championship triumph over Cork in Supervalu Páirc Uí Chaoimh. It was within these three games that Clare’s attack hummed. Eight goals in three matches says it all. With forwards of the calibre of Shane O’Donnell, Tony Kelly, and Mark Rodgers, the 2024 Allianz National Hurling League champions are never truly dead and buried.

As if this attacking arsenal wasn’t enough, it is complimented from behind by the goalscoring PwC All-Star midfielder, David Fitzgerald. The man from Inagh-Kilnamona has bagged 2-10 in the 2024 SHC so far, an impressive tally for a forward, let alone a midfielder. Should the marauding midfielder continue his flying form this weekend, rumblings of a potential player of the year shout will only intensify.

Clare are hurting. At 3.15pm on Saturday afternoon, they will have to park any memories of that emerald, green jersey and focus wholeheartedly on the purple and yellow task at hand. Should they manage to couple this focus with their undoubted quality and skill, they will be on their way to a third All-Ireland SHC Semi-Final in a row. However, any hint of indecision or complacency, and the yellow bellies will pounce.

Wexford hurler Rory O'Connor. 

Wexford hurler Rory O'Connor. 


How they qualified: 3rd place finishers in Leinster, preliminary quarter-final winners

Biggest Strength: Resilience

Danger Man: Rory O’Connor

State of Play: Underdogs

A provincial campaign that got off to a false start. A dramatic last-gasp goal ensured Dublin stole an unlikely draw in Chadwick’s Wexford Park, followed by a disappointing two point loss to Antrim in Belfast. For most, these damaging results would be terminal. For Wexford? They were the fuel that sparked the fire. An electric eight-point win over the Tribesmen, a comfortable triumph in Carlow, and a slender defeat away to the Cats followed. Five points on the board, safe passage out of Leinster secured. The ‘Wexicans,’ much like their South American namesakes, seem to be at their best when they play with passion, emotion, and a sense of undying determination.

The reward for their resilience was a preliminary quarter-final clash against Laois in Laois Hire O’Moore Park. Lee Chin, the Wexford linchpin, quashed any notions of a potential banana skin. An eleven-point haul from the man from Faythe Harriers, ensured this tie to be no major barrier.

Keith Rossiter’s charges will be under no illusions on the scale of the task at hand. Coming up against a wounded Clare beast, in the vast plains of Semple Stadium, is an unenviable challenge. If Clare have thoroughbreds such as Kelly, Rodgers, and O’Donnell, the men from the Sunny Southeast have Chin, O’Connor, and McDonald.

In the 2022 instalment, Clare won by four. With a balance of emotion and skill, Wexford might just settle the score.