SUNDAY: Galway v Cork, Pearse Stadium, 2pm. Deferred coverage on TG4.
TWO teams badly in need of something here if they are going to be involved in the knockout stages of the secondary competition.
Galway are currently worse off than Cork with just two league points but with a game less played and they, it could be said, are in a more precarious position than Cork.
In fact, if they lose here their game in hand against Tipperary would be rendered meaningless. A Cork victory, of course, would see them through to the quarter-finals.
Galway’s form has been very indifferent thus far and apart from trouncing Westmeath on day one they have not lit too many fuses.
They were well beaten by Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds and came up short last Sunday against Waterford in Walsh Park.
There was just the bare minimum dividing the teams in the latter game and Galway missed one or two late chances to get something it.
Joe Canning didn’t travel last Sunday because of injury and when he’s absent there is a problem as everything seems to revolve around him.
The championship is, of course, the priority of all counties but new Galway boss Shane O’Neill, who was considered to be a surprise choice for the job in succession to Micheál O’Donoghue, will want more of a bounce from his players on Sunday.
Galway’s failure to get out of Leinster last season after losing the All-Ireland final to Limerick the previous season was a huge surprise given the quality of the players that are playing for the county.
Behind the scenes too west of the Shannon there were rumblings of discontent which led to O’Donoghue walking away when it was clear that the players wanted him to stay on.
But it was what it was and this is a very important game for both the players and the management and a victory might just be the springboard for better things.
Last Sunday in Walsh Park the side contained three debutants, Conor Walsh, Evan Niland and Shane Cooney to line up alongside Conor Whelan, Cathal Mannion.
Niall Burke and Aidan Harte giving team a blend of youth and experience.
Their wayward shooting, however, cost them and it will have to be better on Sunday against a Cork team that is blowing too hot and cold as well Cork’s biggest problem has been their inconsistency from game to game and within games but that’s been the case for some time.
Individuals too are getting caught up on this, very good one day, not involved the next.
The return from the attack in general has been poor enough and scores from open play are not as frequent as they will need to be going forward.
In the last two games Patrick Horgan has delivered a tally of 2-23 from placed balls.
Against Limerick last Sunday there was a lot of frustration at the first-half performance when Limerick were clearly the superior side.
But, to give credit to them, they turned an eight-point deficit at one stage in that first-half into a three-point advantage thereafter but they subsequently could not push on to secure the win.
That was a clear illustration of their inconsistency within games and that must change. Alan Cadogan’s absence from the attack is substantial and Damien Cahalane’s drive was missed too last Sunday.
The three starting half-forwards did not score and in total Limerick had 11 different players contributing on the board as against five from Cork.
The question must be posed too, have Cork got the depth in the squad that Limerick appear to have.
The league, by its very nature, is a competition that tends to throw up something much different from one week to the next but it must still be a platform to be built on for the big Summer Sundays.
Salthill is never an easy place to get out of with the maximum return and it seems strange that Cork must travel up there again after doing so for the last few league encounters.
If Canning is back in the frame for Galway it will be another ask for the Cork defence who, to be fair, are performing quite well with Rob Downey and Bill Cooper to the fore.
Will the management ring a few changes here, might there be a temptation to give the likes of Michael O’Halloran, Seán Twomey and Brian Turnbull a run out.
Then again a venue like Salthill is no place to be experimenting too much. The loser on Sunday will have no more competitive games until May and that would be a bit of a negative.
So, it must be all hands on deck here with home venue favouring Galway.