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Munster Hurling: What awaits Waterford clubs?

With the county hurling season now almost all but done with nationwide, Waterford clubs are now heading into provincial action.

Ballygunner will once again fly the Deise flag at senior level, while Dunhill and the Brickey Rangers also do so.

Dunhill will be in intermediate action - while the Brickeys seek joy at junior level.

The three county champions at the different grades all travel to Clare this weekend to begin their journeys.

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Dunhill are first up on Saturday, while the Brickeys and Ballygunner will both be in action on Sunday.

But who are they facing?

Dunhill v Smith O'Briens (Saturday - 1:00 - Cusack Park, Ennis)

Dunhill are Waterford intermediate champions for 2021. The club return to the senior ranks in Waterford after an absence, having defeated An Rinn in the county decider.

Their Clare opponents are none other than Smith O'Briens. The Killaloe men are returning to the senior grade in Clare for the first time since 2013.

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The 1999 All-Ireland club champions, St. Joseph's Doora/ Barefield are no stranger to hurling fanatics. Smith O'Briens defeated Doora / Barefield in the Clare IHC Final by 0-14 to 0-12. They had trailed by six points, but limited their rivals to just a point from there on in.

The star man on the day for Smith O'Briens was Tommy Reddan. He clipped over 0-12 of their tally of 14. However, none of them were from play. If Dunhill can limit his free-taking opportunities, it will go a long way.

Joint-captain Cian Nolan is one of the go-to guys, and he was called up to Brian Lohan's Clare squad earlier this year.

Shane Casey and Micheal Harney led the way for Dunhill this season, and it will be tough to seperate these two teams come the final whistle on Saturday.

Elsewhere in Munster, Moyne-Templetuohy of Tipperary will take on Kerry side Kilmoyley - and the winners of these two games will face off in the Munster semi-final.

Limerick champions Mungret St. Pauls will host the winner of the Cork final between Castlelyons and Courcey Rovers in the other semi.

Should Dunhill win, they'll be back in action on December 11th or 12th.

Ballygunner vs Ballyea (Sunday - 1:15 - Cusack Park, Ennis)

The Gunners are Waterford champions with eight years running, and in truth will be seeking Munster glory at minimum following the standards they set in the Waterford Senior Hurling Championship.

They battered past Roanmore in the Waterford final, Dessie Hutchinson hitting 1-9, and now go to face Ballyea, who defeated Inagh / Kilnamona in the Clare equivalent, despite the absence of their talisman Tony Kelly.

A lot of the debate surrounding this clash has hinged upon Kelly's fitness. Should Kelly be fit, then this becomes much more of a potential banana-skin for the Gunners.

4 November 2018; Niall Deasy of Ballyea in action against Barry Coughlan of Ballygunner during the AIB Munster GAA Hurling Senior Club Championship semi-final match between Ballyea and Ballygunner at Walsh Park in Waterford. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

They won their first Clare crown since 2018 by their fingernails, Jack Browne inspiring them to glory in the end as they prevailed by a point. The Gunners defeated Ballyea 2-26 to 2-23 after extra time when they last met that same year.

With the likes of Niall Deasy and Gary Brennan, Ballyea still pose a threat - but is it a superior threat to that of Dessie Hutchinson, Pauric Mahony, Peter Hogan and company?

The bookmakers have Ballygunner down as favourites to take the Munster title, and this is their chance to state their intentions.

Should they progress, it's the winner of the Tipperary SHC final between Loughmore-Castleiney and Thurles Sarsfields who await. That game is being replayed at the weekend with the first having ended all-square.

The other Munster Hurling Championship semi-final will see Midleton travel to Limerick champions Kilmallock.

Brickey Rangers vs Ogonnelloe (Sunday - 1:30 - Sixmilebridge)

The Brickeys are hoping to make waves on the junior level against Ogonolloe.

They defeated Mount Sion by ten points in the junior final despite trailing early on. That was their first junior crown since 2005 - and the club are back at intermediate having been relegated from the grade two years ago.

The likes of Tom O'Connell, Conor Whelan and Mark Cummins will be instrumental to the Brickeys cause on Sunday.

Robert Shortall's men are coming up against a side who also won their county final quite comprehensively.

Ogonnelloe defeated Crusheen by 4-14 to 1-9 in the Clare decider. That was a first junior title for 33 years for the East Clare men.

While little is known about them on paper, they could prove a difficult proposition.

Should the Brickeys progress, they will meet the winners of Tralee Parnells (Kerry) and Skeheenarinky (Tipperary)

Cork's Ballygiblin and Limerick's Caherline will also meet in the last four.

 

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