Munster SHL final Limerick V Cork Saturday, Gaelic Grounds, 7.30pm.
GIVEN the attendance in the Fraher Field for Waterford and Cork and in Sixmilebridge last Sunday for Clare and Limerick, the pre-season competition has gone well for the provincial council.
And things should get better on Saturday for the final between Cork and Limerick.
In the past this competition has served both counties well, acting as a forerunner to greater glory further into the season.
Cork won it in 2017 before going on to win the next two Munster championships while Limerick won it in 2018 before they went forward to win the McCarthy Cup.
This is the least important game of the three between the two counties over the coming months, in the NHL and in the Munster championship but it won’t do either of them any harm either.
In fact, irrespective of its status, winning any competition is good for players, a case of success breeding success.
Limerick and Cork have experimented quite a lot in the run-up to this final and whilst both teams will be stronger on Sunday, there will still be an opportunity for a lot of players to put their hand up.
After a bit of off the field publicity that could have been done without in Limerick, the ship is back in more serene waters again and two fine victories over Tipperary and Clare in this competition should generate plenty of interest in this game.
Cork had a run around against Kerry but the victory over Waterford in Dungarvan was much more difficult to come by.
At the end of the day and come Munster championship time one would not expect wholesale changes on either Cork or Limerick but that’s not saying that places are not available.
Kieran Kingston and his management team are putting in plenty of work and last weekend held a very productive two day camp in Fota Island.
In the games against Kerry and Waterford you had the likes of Ryan Walsh, Sean Twomey, Sean O’Leary-Hayes and Tommy O’Connell getting game time.
At different stages, they made valuable contributions, young O’Connell grabbing a goal against Waterford that made the difference in the end.
Kingston has a lot of players in at the moment in a training group and will have the likes of Deccie Dalton back in after Fr O’Neill’s complete their All-Ireland campaign next weekend.
John Kiely is in experimental mode too in Limerick whilst, at the same time, including a few All-Ireland winners in his plans too.
Against Clare last Sunday, David Reidy was in top scoring form with a return of 1-12.
Tom Morrissey and Aidan Breen posted four points apiece in that game.
There’s always an extra bit of an edge to Clare and Limerick games and winning in Sixmilebridge will have pleased Kiely and his selectors.
This is the last game of any significance before Cork’s national league opener against Waterford and Limerick against Tipp in Thurles.
So, you’d expect a bit of a battle in this final and securing the bragging rights that might be available.
The new Cork management team will be looking for one or two players to provide extra firepower up front and that there won’t be an over dependency again on Patrick Horgan.
Before the championship gets off the ground, Cork will want more consistency too down the middle.
You might not learn a whole pile in some of these pre-season games but, at the same time, there will be things that only management teams might spot.
UCC’s participation in the Fitzgibbon Cup will dictate a lot of what Kieran Kingston and his selectors can don at this juncture.
And there are 16 UCC players in the Cork training group.
It might be suggested that Cork only played well twice over the course of last season and in both instances it was against Limerick in the national league and the championship.
There will definitely have to be more consistency from Cork from game to game and within games and that has been a problem for a while now.
Cork have just two games at home this season in the national league, one against Tipp, the other against Limerick.
Defeating Limerick again this weekend would be worthwhile but one way or the other there won’t be a whole pile of sleep lost over the outcome.
However, it could still be a decent game.