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Padráic Maher of Tipperary in action against Maurice Shanahan of Waterford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Padráic Maher of Tipperary in action against Maurice Shanahan of Waterford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Ranking the Munster hurling contenders ahead of a critical weekend of action

IT was a calm before another storm in the Munster SHC last weekend before it all heats up again next Sunday.

Cork will be on the outside looking on next Sunday when Tipperary head for Cusack Park and Limerick bid to get their show on the road with a visit to Walsh Park Before another sliothar is pucked in anger, Tippeary are firmly in the drivers’ seat with two wins from two and a plus of 25 points.

Clare are next best with one win from one outing with Cork are in third place with one win from two.

Limerick and Waterford are pointless but Waterford are worse off because they have two games played and are minus points.

However, there’s still a lot of sorting to do in the provincial campaign office and it will be a while yet before we get a clearer picture.

But now is a good time to have a look at the five counties and how they are shaping up in their bid to be one of the three that will emerge into the All-Ireland series.

The top two, of course, will contest the final as Cork and Clare did last season with the third team going into the qualifiers as Limerick did last time out.

1. TIPPERARY

Came in a bit under the radar with hardly a word coming out of the Premier County in advance of the meeting with Cork.

But they roared out loud that day in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and even louder in Thurles against Waterford.

It’s quite obvious that a lot went of work went into the training regime after the loss to Dublin in the league and that Liam Sheedy and Tommy Dunne had their homework done.

In the two games against Cork and Waterford, different players came to the fore each day.

Bonner Maher goes past Conor Gleeson of Waterford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Bonner Maher goes past Conor Gleeson of Waterford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The half-backs of the three Mahers, Brendan, Pauric, and Ronan were superb against Cork as was ‘Bubbles’ Dwyer and Seamus Callanan.

Against Waterford, Michael Breen, replaced against Cork, was superb with six points from open play.

Sheedy is mixing things up too with a lot of movement in positions throughout the field.

It’s still early days but Tipp appear to be threshing again.

Rating so far: 9

2. CLARE

Have done what was required of them in just their one game, going into Walsh Park and coming away with the victory.

Given that it was Waterford’s first championship game at home for years and the expectation that surrounded it, Clare’s victory was very significant.

Some of the gloss was removed from it by squandering a considerable lead in the second-half and only winning by a point at the end.

Clare ace Tony Kelly. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Clare ace Tony Kelly. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

One must recall that they lost an eight-point advantage to Cork in last season’s Munster final.

But a point is as good as 10 goals and it was mission achieved.

We’ll know more about them when Tipp come to Cusack Park.

Rating so far: 8

3. CORK

Two days out thus far, one not so good, the other very good.

Cork were downright poor against Tipp but a totally transformed side against Limerick.

Darragh Fitzgibbon taking on Limerick. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Darragh Fitzgibbon taking on Limerick. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

The management team made some big calls and they all paid off.

The return of Bill Cooper to midfield worked the oracle, Mark Ellis fitted in seamlessly to centre-back while Aidan Walsh did what was required from him.

There was a lot more urgency and aggression to the side and the two Cadogans played out of their skin.

Danny Kearney, off form against Tipp, was magnificent while Patrick Horgan was simply outstanding again.

A real team effort with more of the same required going forward.

The ball is back in their court now and there’s no reason why it cannot stay there.

Rating so far: 7

4. LIMERICK

They are on the backfoot already and must change gears quickly. That means beating Waterford in Walsh Park on Sunday.

They will be favourites to do so but they were as well against Cork.

Limerick players Declan Hannon and Nickie Quaid. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Limerick players Declan Hannon and Nickie Quaid. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

As they say, Munster is a minefield and we all know what happened Tipp last year when they were favourites to be head of affairs.

Limerick’s strength remains their squad depth and it will have to be used now.

When they goaled against Cork in the first half the feeling was that they’d push on but they couldn’t or should that be they were not allowed to.

Another defeat and they could really be under the cosh.

Rating so far: 5

5. WATERFORD:

TWO defeats and the news now that Philip Mahony is out for the rest of the campaign with injury all adds up to a very worrying time in the Deise.

Two wins from their remaining two games might get them through but that depends on results elsewhere.

The loss of Conor Gleeson against Tipp was a blow but they were a well-beaten docket in the end.

Maybe the sands of time are catching up with a few of the older generation.

Shane O'Donnell battles Noel Connors. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Shane O'Donnell battles Noel Connors. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

They simply have to win against Limerick in Walsh Park or it’s all over for another season.

Maybe too much was made of Walsh Park in the whole thing.

You would not write them off but it all boils down to beating the league and All-Ireland champions next Sunday.

Everything is on the line against Limerick and we’ll see what they are made of.

Rating so far: 5