There's still a huge amount at stake in the Munster and Leinster championships

There's still a huge amount at stake in the Munster and Leinster championships
Limerick's William O’Donoghue and Shane Kingston of Cork. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

IT would be fair to suggest that this season’s installment of the Munster championship has not matched the grandeur, excitement, tension, and talking points of the previous one.

Maybe the same could be said of its Leinster counterpart, but where Munster was concerned it was always going to be difficult to reach the level of the first season of the round-robin format.

But we should not be too downbeat, because the potential remains over the next two weekends for a lot to change.

After all, aside from Tipperary who are as good as berthed in the Munster final, and Waterford and Carlow who cannot emerge into the All-Ireland series, there are seven counties over the two provinces still very much in contention.

And in both, there are some very big fixtures to come. Despite Clare’s abysmal showing last weekend against Tipperary you would expect a backlash on Sunday from them against their arch-rivals in the Gaelic Grounds.

There is nothing to make a Clare person die happy other than witnessing Limerick being downed in their own backyard, all the more so now when they hold the two national titles.

We have already seen how momentum can change weekly, Cork being the perfect example when putting in such a poor display against Tipperary and coming back a week later with all guns blazing against Limerick.

Last season Limerick were trounced by Clare to the tune of 11 points, but a few months later they were holding up the McCarthy Cup.

Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Last season too, Tipperary were a beaten docket a few days after the middle of June and their resurgence this season has, without doubt, been the story of the championship in both provinces.

This season’s Munster campaign has been, thus far, a complete contrast to last year where home and away form is concerned.

In last season’s campaign, there was only one team achieving victory on an away ground, while up to now there have been five away wins.

Potentially, the game of the weekend could be Sunday’s Nowlan Park clash between Kilkenny and Galway.

Galway need to get something from this fixture and a loss would make their position precarious heading for Parnell Park a week later to face Dublin.

Wexford's Lee Chin and Shane Barrett of Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Wexford's Lee Chin and Shane Barrett of Dublin. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

It would certainly be a massive surprise if the team that lost last season’s All-Ireland final by a point failed to come out of their own province.

But one has to remember that Tipperary, with the vast majority of this season’s seemingly unstoppable team, failed to come out of Munster last time out.

One thing is definite, in both provinces it’s going down to the wire as far as qualification is concerned and you could have a situation next weekend that both of last season’s All-Ireland finalists will fail to come out.

Tipperary have this weekend off, safe in the knowledge that it would take something extraordinary to deny them a place in the Munster final.

They have been streets ahead of the three teams that they have faced in Munster already, but that leads to the question, are they peaking too soon?

That is a question we cannot answer for now, but for argument’s sake, if themselves and Cork meet again in the Munster final, the likelihood is that the proceedings would not be similar to what transpired in Páirc Uí Chaoimh earlier in May.

And if they did meet in the Munster final there’s every chance they could meet up again in August in the All-Ireland final.

Okay, that’s jumping the gun completely, given that there’s so much hurling to be played yet by a lot of counties.

But watch this space.

Meanwhile, the comments of Cork’s glittering star Patrick Horgan were very interesting this week when he spoke in the aftermath of his selection as the Player of the Month for the month of May.

With nothing being gained after Cork’s Munster final victories over the past two years, might it not be better to take the alternative route of the qualifiers?

The Glen great, however, did not agree.

PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May Patrick Horgan. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for May Patrick Horgan. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

“You just cannot turn around and say you are not interested in winning a trophy. People say to try and qualify in third like Limerick last year. But why would you want not to get to a Munster final?

“They’re the days when you are a child that you go with your dad. They are what dreams are made of, that day and all that goes with it.

“We would bite your hand off for a place in the Munster final.’’

As regards tonight’s match with Waterford, he’s not taking anything for granted.

“We’ll take any form of a win. From playing them over the years we know how dangerous they can be. They have beaten us in an All-Ireland semi-final, a league final so we just know we must be on our game."

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