FORMER Cork hurling boss John Meyler hit the nail on the head in an interview last week when he stated that winning the All-Ireland is now more difficult than ever.
And he believed that despite not having won the McCarthy Cup in 15 years, Cork have not underachieved to the degree that some might want to believe.
The point that he was making that long gone are the days when the title race was dominated by Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork.
Now the playing field is much more level with all the participants in the race believing that they can be successful.
“If you look at both the Munster and Leinster championship all the ten participants believe that they have a decent chance,’’ he stated.
Nobody will argue with him on that point because while a few teams might be ahead of others in the pecking order, it’s a very open field.
Here in Munster at this moment in time Tipperary and Limerick would be seen to be slightly ahead of the other three, Cork, Clare and Waterford but if one of the latter three defeated the two first named it would not be any great surprise.
We don’t know yet how it’s going to work itself out but has the Munster championship ever had a more level playing field.
As far as betting on one county against another, you would be inclined to keep your few bob in your pocket.
It’s become a similar story in Leinster with Kilkenny, Wexford, Galway and to a slightly lesser extent, Dublin all not too far apart.
Laois too made great strides last season under Eddie Brennan and none of the others would be complacent going in against them.
The race for the McCarthy Cup does not begin for nearly four months yet and that’s quite a bit away.
It will be different this time, starting up in October when it should have been all over in August.
Will that make a difference, it may very well do and the schedule is going to be much tighter in conditions that may not be quite like as they are in June, July and August.
People, of course, will always say that the cream will always come to the top no matter what the prevailing conditions might be.
Before play was suspended back in March the form team was Limerick and if that form was to be retained there is no doubt they would in a very strong position to regain the title that they won so gloriously in 2018.
Tipperary are the reigning champions, very strong champions too but their record of putting back to back titles together has been appalling, going back to the ‘60s since they last accomplished that feat.
Can this team now overcome that obstacle and prove that they deserve to take their place alongside some of the great Tipp teams from the past?.
History has shown that it takes a very good team, as Kilkenny were in the past, to retain the title.
Of course, they did it not once or twice but three times on the trot.
That is going to be immensely difficult to ever achieve again because, as stated already, of the fact that the playing field has levelled off considerably.
Meyler pointed in the interview to Cork going very close in 2013 and again in 2017 and 2018 and he was right but the bottom line each time was that they failed.
The key to being successful in any code is consistency from game to game and within games.
On a given day the current Cork crop is as good if not better than any of the rest but they have not possessed that consistent streak.
Simply put, they blow too hot and cold and that has cost them.
Look at what’s going on across the water and the consistency of Liverpool, winning has become a habit to them and now the rewards are finally coming.
People expect counties like Kilkenny, Tipp and Cork to be winning every year but what was once maybe their divine right to do so is not the case anymore.
Meyler pointed out that nearly everything has to go right in a given year to be successful and again he’s right.
Your top players, the Patrick Horgans of this world have to stay injury-free, you are probably going to need a slice of luck at some point in the campaign and you have to get it spot on when it comes to making the right decisions on the line.
Right now the pecking order in the list of contenders for the big prize might look like this in our opinion.
1 Limerick, 2 Tipperary, 3 Galway, 4 Kilkenny, 5 Cork, 6 Wexford (based on the fact that they should have beaten Tipp last season), 7 Clare, 8 Waterford, 9 Dublin, 10 Laois.
One thing is for certain, the potential is there for a cracking championship no matter what the format may be.
And it’s wide open