THERE has been a lot of talk about the provincial championships and the standard of play.
While some of the matches have been more exciting in Leinster, I believe the reason was that all teams are nearly equal. When that is the case, the games are going to be more exciting.
But there is also no consistency in the Leinster teams: Galway beating Kilkenny, then Dublin beating Galway and having a draw with Wexford. Wexford won the Championship, and Laois knock Dublin out in the qualifiers.
I don’t think the quality in Leinster is as strong as people think.
Nevertheless, we have Munster against Leinster on Sunday, that should tell us a lot more. And we start with the two giants of the game — Cork and Kilkenny.
These two counties have, in the past, produced some of the greatest games and players we’ve ever seen.
Hopefully we will get more of that on Sunday.
From my experience, no matter how good Kilkenny are going, and no matter how good Cork are going, they always can beat one another when least expected.
We all know what Kilkenny has produced over the last 20 years and all the titles they have won, but I don’t think they would have accumulated as many had things been right in Cork.
That era is over now for both sides and this Sunday will tell us more.
I watched Cork last Sunday and what really impressed me was how sharp their hurling was, especially from midfield up, with lightning pace in their attack and their touch was first-class. I know the opposition was poor, but 40 points is still a massive score no matter who you are playing.
I know this team do not get many goals, but if you can get 40 points you don’t need many goals. Of course, I can’t see Cork getting 40 points in this game, or anything near it!
I believe they will need to get a few goals to win this game. Guys like Patrick Horgan, Seamus Harnedy, Alan Cadogan, and especially Conor Lehane — who always seems to get a goal in Croke Park — will need to rattle that Kilkenny net, because you can be sure that TJ Reid, Walter Walsh, and Adrian Mullen will be doing their best to get goals at the other end.
The Cork defence will have to be a lot tighter than it was in their Munster Championship game against Clare when it allowed Clare a couple of easy goals, but I think having Stephen McDonnell back in the full-back line will add that bit of experience that is needed in a place like Croke Park.
Also, Eoin Cadogan cannot afford to be as loose in this game as he was against John Conlan, as fellas like Colin Fennelly will take advantage of that.
It is also a big occasion for young Niall O’Leary. I could see him picking up Adrian Mullen, two very young promising players with plenty of ability. O’Leary has been very good so far this year, but Croke Park is always a big test. He has the bouldness to not let this bother him, and that is always a plus.
In midfield, I was impressed with Tim O’Mahony last Sunday in Mullingar. I think Cork should leave him in this position with Bill Cooper, and give Darragh Fitzgibbon a kind of a free role which he is very good at. His pace and his scoring ability could cause the Kilkenny defence a number of problems.
That defence is not over-blessed with speed, and Cork should be able to exploit that. But they’ll need to take their scores. Every opportunity will have to be availed of here.
Guys like Padraig Walsh, Hue Lawlor, Joey Holden and Cillian Buckley, if he is playing, are very good defensive players with great hurling ability, and very physical as well.
No ‘excuse me’ from these lads when they are going for the ball —they go full-blooded for everything and they don’t spare you. That’s not to say in any way dirty, just pure manly stuff.
Add in probably the best goalkeeper in the country, Eoin Murphy, and you can see how hard this task is going to be for Cork.
I’m sure Brian Cody has gone through this so many times in getting his team right, especially after the loss to Wexford, when they seemed to panic in the last 10 minutes, which I have never seen from them before. They could have got something out of the game.
They did things which you definitely would not associate with Kilkenny in the past. Is there a little bit of doubt creeping in about themselves? They don’t usually ‘do’ doubt.
Cork will have to get on top in this game from the get-go. Use the wide spaces of Croke Park and with the Cork attack buzzing around and taking their scores, white flags and green, they have to seize the opportunity early, as the one team you can’t leave hanging around is Kilkenny. This is not David versus Goliath, it’s Goliath versus Goliath!
I don’t know what colour Goliath wore but I believe the winner will be wearing red on Sunday. Cork to win by a few points.
I cannot understand that Cork and Kilkenny are the curtain raiser to Tipperary and Laois, something does not look right there to me!
I know there were a lot of happy people in Laois last week and rightly so, but when they seriously think about it, they only beat Dublin.
Dublin have been very disappointing in the last number of years, and when you take them out of Parnell Park, I think they are easy enough to deal with.
That is why Laois would not want to be getting too carried away with this victory, good and all as it was.
I believe there was only one person happier than Laois supporters last week, and that was Liam Sheedy — and I believe he will be happy again on Sunday evening when they will be in the All-Ireland semi-final against Wexford.
The only chance I would give Laois is if Tipperary were to wear the Dublin jersey.
And that’s not going to happen!