NEXT Saturday night’s collision of Cork and Tipperary, at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, takes on extra significance, with both having lost their opening assignments in the NHL. A second defeat would put them on the back-burner, as far as reaching the knockout stages.
A good start can be half the battle, but that does not apply for the old rivals. The only consistency in a lot of these early season encounters is the inconsistency.
Both Cork and Tipperary got flying starts, against Waterford and Limerick, respectively, Cork more so by banging in a brace of goals in the opening two or three minutes.
The home support at Waterford’s Walsh Park was stunned into silence and, despite the very early juncture in the game, it looked like it might be defeat for them.
Fast forward 10 or 12 minutes, however, and Waterford were in front, having recovered admirably from that terrible opening couple of minutes.
At half-time, they still led and, at full-time, they had completed the recovery mission.
Now, nobody loses a great deal of sleep over league games in January, but this was still a disappointing outcome for Cork and, at the same time, a positive start for new Waterford boss, Liam Cahill.
Cork’s return of 3-17 would be enough to win most games and it should have been a lot more, only for the profligacy of Kieran Kingston’s team.
A number of things, of course, have to be factored in, Fitzgibbon Cup duty for a lot of the players being one of them.
Cork had a chance to snatch a point at the death, but Waterford deserved their victory.
Their final delivery was more clinical and the Bennett brothers, Shane and Kieran, had a fine day at the office, sharing 16 points between them.
Paddy Curran hit 1-3 from play and that will certainly boost the confidence of a player who, maybe, has not yet fulfilled the exceptional talent he exhibited when he was a brilliant younger player.
Shane Kingston was, by far, the most conspicuous Cork forward on duty, banging in two goals and posting a couple of points into the bargain.
Some of his compatriots up-front, however, will be fully aware that they can do much better, but, then again, it’s January.
One of the positives from a Waterford viewpoint was the performance of Iarlaith Daly, in defence, and that made it a memorable weekend for his family: his brother, Cathrach, starred for CBC in the Dr Harty Cup win over Midleton CBS.
Iarlaith himself is, of course, a graduate of the Cork school.
Any new team boss is desperate to get a few early wins and get the support behind him and, in that regard, Liam Cahill will have been delighted with the outcome.
This fellow seems to have an Indian sign on Cork teams, having led Tipperary to victory over them at minor and U21 level.
Next Sunday, he heads up to Mullingar and another two league points should be on the board, at the conclusion of the game with Westmeath. That will do nicely for openers, but the supporters down there will be mindful, too, that a league final was contested last year and what followed was another hugely disappointing championship campaign.
Whatever disappointment was felt by the Cork support in Walsh Park, it was probably more acute in Thurles, with Tipperary coughing up a 10- point advantage early in the second-half.
We always expect the unexpected in league games, at this juncture in the season, but very few envisaged the second-half turnaround in Semple stadium.
Limerick were awful in the opening half, flat and not functioning.
At the interval, you’d have got around 10/1 on them getting out with the league points.
But if there was ever a game of two halves, this was one, Limerick turning it completely around and securing the win.
It stood out that Liam Sheedy left Seamus Callanan on the bench throughout, opting, instead, to give some of the new, younger players the opportunity.
Maybe that told us something about the attitude in the Premier County towards the league.
On the other side, one of the Limerick subs made a vital difference, Will O’Donoghue coming in and setting up their two goals.
Whatever your views, this was a big win for Limerick.
One of the best performances of the weekend came from Kilkenny, in Nowlan Park, in their dismantling of Dublin.
They did so with a man down and with only six of the side that started last season’s All-Ireland final.
None of the Ballyhale crew made an appearance, but it hardly mattered in a game that will ring one or two alarm bells in Dublin.
However, the message was very loud and clear from a Kilkenny angle: they are going to be involved in everything again this season. They had 12 different scorers in Nowlan Park.
There’s just one round of the league completed, but, already, it seems that Carlow and Westmeath are going to be sailing in very troubled waters.
Carlow were sunk without trace in Ennis, against Clare, and it was a similar story in Salthill, with Westmeath against Galway.
It looks odds on that the only points they’ll muster up are when they play each other.
We’ll probably learn a little more next weekend.