GAA talking points as Limerick dazzle and Cork limp into the qualifiers

GAA talking points as Limerick dazzle and Cork limp into the qualifiers

Aaron Gillane had a massive game for Limerick in their impressive win over Tipp. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

THE Cork hurlers are limping into the qualifiers and the footballers counting down to a daunting Munster semi-final against Kerry next weekend, but this unique inter-county season is helping us all get through Lockdown 2.

There's a bit to go before we reach the latter stages of these championships, and Covid or the weather could yet scupper the GAA's best-laid plans, but so far so good. Even if Cork honouring the 30th anniversary of the Double by regaining Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire doesn't look too likely right now. 

The conditions were certainly horrific on Sunday but that didn't prevent Donegal and Tyrone serving up an enthralling Ulster joust, Tipp's footballers knocking out Clare to progress to a provincial semi-final with Limerick, or the Limerick hurlers living up to their billing of All-Ireland favourites against the Premier.

Here are three talking points heading into next weekend...

1. THE CORK HURLERS ARE AT A CROSSROADS: Since leaving the 2018 All-Ireland semi-final behind them at Croker, the Rebels have been beaten in the championship by Tipp, Clare, Kilkenny and Waterford. They've struggled in the league too.

The Rebels brought great joy to the Leeside faithful in 2017 and '18 with Munster titles but a nucleus of the team is

 on the go since the provincial triumph in 2014. Kieran Kingston, in his second term, has some huge calls to make.

The supporters are keen to see youth given its fling. 

To be fair to Kingston and his selectors, Seán O'Leary Hayes and Daire Connery were handed their debuts against the Déise at Semple Stadium, with another U21, Robert Downey, at centre-back, and 23-year-old Tim O'Mahony in the half-back line too. Cork's performance still felt stale though.

Jack Prendergast of Waterford scores a point despite the efforts of Tim O'Mahony. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jack Prendergast of Waterford scores a point despite the efforts of Tim O'Mahony. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Anthony Nash struggled with some of his puck-outs, while Damien Cahalane and Chris Joyce were under pressure in defence. Bill Cooper got a couple of points but Jamie Barron was the dominant figure at midfield. Seamus Harnedy (3) and Conor Lehane (2) slammed over some of their usual soaring points but had long spells on the periphery of the game. 

Do the management give the veterans a shot at redemption or is the time right for the likes of Deccie Dalton and Billy Hennessy to come in?

2. LIMERICK WILL TAKE SOME STOPPING: Though they won the league and Munster titles in 2019, Limerick were knocked out by Kilkenny, and also lost to Cork early on.

They look a leaner, meaner outfit than last season in their wins over Clare and Tipperary to return to the provincial final. From the throw-in at Páirc Uí Chaoimh they set the tone and despite horrific conditions put 3-23 on the board. 

Aaron Gillane was a beast up front, Cian Lynch thrived in a new role at centre-forward and Diarmuid Byrnes and Delcan Hannon lorded if in the half-back line. Their collective team-work and tackling was immense

Tipp never remotely looked like winning. They've serious mileage on the clock, with a handful of the 2010 All-Ireland winning side still on the go.

3. CAN THE REBEL FOOTBALLERS FOLLOW CAVAN'S LEAD? Monaghan were heavily backed to get past Cavan on Saturday but, on their own patch in Clones, were pipped at the end of extra time. Cork will be far bigger underdogs next Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh against Kerry but there would be no better time to beat their old rivals.

There's not much to suggest they will of course. Cork got promoted from Division 3 but the Kingdom lifted the Division 1 crown. Ronan McCarthy's squad is undermined by injury, with Liam O'Donovan and Tomás Clancy out, Seánie Powter a doubt and Brian Hurley absent from training lately too.

It probably doesn't help Cork's cause that they rattled Kerry in last year's decider, which will put Peter Keane's charges on alert. 

Cork, if Hurley is fit to join an attack that will include Luke Connolly, Cathail O'Mahony, Mark Collins and Paul Kerrigan, will get scores. Keeping tabs on David Clifford, Paul Geaney, Seán O'Shea and co will be the problem.

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