There were no shortage of memorable hurling matches played in 2013 but the two Harty Cup semi-final ties played between Árd Scoil Rís and Our Ladys of Templemore were undoubtedly two of the most absorbing fixtures that took place throughout the season, even if they were played in dank February weather. Last year the Tipperary school prevailed after a replay, though their efforts turned out to be in vain as Dungarvan Colleges won the final comprehensively and took the honours. This Friday Ard Scoil have their chance to avenge that defeat and this time around they are the strong favourites that everyone expects to go the whole way. Paddy Power certainly hold that view and have installed them as the 7/4 favourites to win the competition at this stage.
That price was actually shorter at 11/8 before Christmas, but schools like Doon CBS and Charleville were well-backed and so their odds shortened, allowing Powers could afford to stretch the price on the city students. On paper Ard Scoil certainly look like the strongest team in the pack and the manner of their victory over highly rated teams from St Flannans and De la Salle would suggest that they won’t be too far off the pace. However this will be a really tough fixture and expect Templemore to be well backed at 7/4 for the match, while it would take a brave punter to get stuck into Ard Scoil at 1/2.
A good valuepatriotic alternative here might be a bet on Ronan Lynch for the first goal at 11/2. The Limerick minor player won’t be rattling the net from general play, but he does take a lot of close in frees and on what could be a sloppy Friday afternoon in McDonagh Park it would be no surprise if it took a placed ball to create a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Later this weekend Limerick’s senior hurlers will meet Clare in the first Shannonside hurling derby of the year, a Waterford Crystal Cup tie that will take place at a Clare venue. At the time of writing Paddy Powers have not yet posted prices on this fixture due to the absence of team news from the Clare camp, but they will find it very difficult to install the reigning All Ireland champions as outsiders in any tie. However in this case, Limerick probably should be the favourites. Both these counties will be without several front line contenders due to college commitments while the absence of the Na Piarsaigh hurlers will also limit TJ Ryan and Donal O’Grady’s options, however they should be much more motivated to compete than a group of Clare hurlers who should be a long way further back in their training. If Powers offer anything bigger than 11/10, it could be worth a decent punt.
by Kevin Egan