AS the Gaelic Grounds is only a stone’s throw away from where I was born in Cratloe.
As a young lad I went there with my father, and saw some great games — and I have to say, Cork were involved in a lot of them.
Magnificent crowds came to Limerick and that was in a time before tickets were needed — cash was taken at the turnstiles — first come, first served for the best seats, and hence the reason why the queue started at 9am in the morning to get the best seats in the house, for a game to start at 3.30pm.
Limerick business people were delighted when Cork were playing, especially the publicans and the eating houses, as the Cork supporters were great spenders in these establishments.
It was the good old days and the craic was mighty — and the matches weren’t bad either!
However, time moves on and this Sunday I’m expecting to see a really good Munster championship game, hard and physical, with no prisoners taken by either side.
The big question for John Meyler is — can he get his team to perform way better than last Sunday?
Apart from Eoin Cadogan, Niall O’Leary, and Patrick Horgan, the rest of the Cork players have given John and his management team a stick to beat them with after that performance last week.
This is a real test for John and his players — the same as it is for any other manager when things go bad — that’s when the real challenge must be faced. How did they handle this week?
I’m sure they must be feeling down and maybe a bit of doubt creeping in — this is where a good manager can help and get rid of that doubt, firstly in himself, and then in his players, and let them know that last Sunday was not good enough, or anywhere near good enough, representing the Cork jersey.
You have to stand up and fight for every ball with every last drop of your being.
Players can not take a casual attitude, and that means playing with massive intensity and aggression from the word go — putting your body on the line.
This is the Munster Championship and that’s what it’s all about — I’m sure that is what Cork supporters want to see from their team and especially after last Sunday, that is definitely what it’s going to take against the All-Ireland champions.
This Limerick team are even more physical than Tipperary, with a real cutting edge to their play.
Guys like Diarmuid Byrnes, Sean Finn, Dan Morrissey, and Richie English — these are defenders who don’t stand on ceremony.
Add in Cian Lynch in the middle of the field, the man that makes a lot of things happen for them, and more giants in the forward line, Garoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, Tom Morrissey and the two finishers, Graham Mulcahy, and Aaron Gillane — you can see that this is a huge test for Cork.
Is it a test they are up for? With a big Limerick following, it makes it even harder.
The reason I was so critical of Cork last Sunday was because of the way they let Tipperary dominate the game from start to finish. I don’t believe any team should allow that to happen — and if they bring that same attitude on next Sunday, this game will be over early.
But I don’t expect Cork to repeat that, and I know over the years with Limerick teams, they always have a fear of Cork.
I think this will be a big advantage for Cork on Sunday and they need to capitalise on that.
They need their big men performing all over the field. I don’t know the Cork team at the time of writing, but they would need to have a guy like Bill Cooper back for this game. Bill is not the best hurler Cork have by any means, but he brings a leadership quality and a doggedness to his play, that will be needed on Sunday.
If Mark Ellis is available that they could do with his experience. He is worth starting for his presence at six.
If Alan Cadogan is fit, he too would be a big asset, as he would take some of the pressure off Patrick Horgan, and he could cause this Limerick defence a lot of problems with his pace.
But I think there are three players that really need to stand up on Sunday. The first is Daragh Fitzgibbon, who looked out of sorts last Sunday.
I know he had a long year with Charleville, but Cork really need him hurling well at midfield as he is also worth a few scores. If he runs at the Limerick defenders, he will cause problems.
I think a way of beating this defence is to run at them. Daniel Kearney needs to get back to the form he was in last year, as he was nowhere near that last Sunday. They need him playing really well as he is the engine of the team at times.
But most of all I think the player that Cork need, and he has more ability than anybody, is Conor Lehane.
If Conor could only hurl for 50 minutes at his very best, I think he would be in the running for Hurler of the Year every year. He has it all — scoring, pace, skill — but he has got to do it more consistently.
He can be a match winner any day if he puts his mind to it, and not just for 10-15 minutes, which is what he seems to do a lot of the time.
Limerick better watch out if he is in form for the full match — it’s up to you, Conor!
Patrick Horgan, I’m sure, will get special attention from the Limerick defence, and rightly so. At the moment, Patrick is probably the top forward in the country along with TJ Reid — but Patrick, if you could only copy TJ now and then and go for goal!
This is a huge test for Cork.
If John Meyler has used that stick well this week, together with the slight fear that Limerick traditionally have of Cork teams, I expect Cork to get the win that they so badly need.