THE story so far… Cork are on the road again, after a breakdown in Páirc Uí Chaoimh but Limerick have pulled over with a puncture in the Gaelic Grounds.
Clare are burning oil after their trip to Walsh Park, but nothing a good service won’t fix.
Tipperary are cruising on the motorway, on the fast lane, after two impressive wins, while Waterford are in the NCT shop.
And it’s still only May.
Everyone is still in with a chance of qualifying though.
Once again the cut-throat Munster series proves to me that it is by far the best championship and has been for a great number of years, irrespective of what structure has been there.
Fair play to the Munster Council.
It has nearly always proven a success.
I think this home and away arrangement is fantastic, both from a hurling point of view and from an economical point of view.
I know from talking to a lot of business people in the town of Ennis that they are really looking forward to the crowds this weekend I’m sure all visitors from Tipperary will get a great welcome.
No need to bring the sandwiches lads, they make good ones in Ennis!
I know Waterford and Limerick are playing in a huge game as well, but there is only one show in town this Sunday: Clare-Tipp. A real local derby.
I know myself when I was involved with Clare during the 90’s we had some great battles with Tipp.
A great rivalry, healthy and maybe unhealthy at times as well, but brilliant games with some mighty battles all over the field.
Hopefully we will see more of that on Sunday. Tipperary are the form team in Munster at the moment, playing some tremendous hurling and clocking up very big scores against Cork and Waterford.
Ennis is a different venue to the Páirc or Thurles.
It’s a very tight pitch, meaning more bumper to bumper hurling. With a big home following breathing down the back of your neck, this could be a different test for Tipp.
Will the Premier players get the room they need?
Will guys like ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, Jason Forde, John McGrath, Seamus Callinan and especially Noel McGrath, get the freedom that they need to be really effective?
I think these guys will get special attention. This is what Clare need to do, man mark, to have any chance.
They have big physical players in guys like David McInerney, Conor Cleary, David Fitzgerald, Cathal Malone and the terrier-like Jack Browne in defence.
They will have to get great back up from midfielders, Colm Galvin and Shane Golden.
Work-rate will have to be extremely high here. They will have to fight like dogs for every ball. If these guys do that, I think the Clare attack can cause problems for the Tipp defence.
After all, an under-performing Cork got a big score off them, I believe that Tipp lack a bit of pace in the centre of their defence.
Guys like Tony Kelly, Peter Duggan, Podge Collins, John Conlan, and the guy that makes things happen for Clare, one of the most unselfish players in the country, Shane O’Donnell.
I think Shane is the main man in this Clare attack, with his pace and his intelligence on the ball.
Tipp will probably put Cathal Barrett on him, a tigerish corner-back.
Also I’d say Tony Kelly will get special attention from the Tipp defence.
Clare need a big performance from these two players. Kelly needs to be in the game more consistently and he also needs to bring other players into play rather than going for the score all the time.
A brilliant player, but needs more vision in his play.
Tipp will bring savage intensity to this game but their record in Ennis is not good. Then again neither was their record in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Clare will have to match their intensity in every way and maybe even surpass it.
Tipp are slight favourites for this because of what they have done already, but I also believe that they haven’t been tested like they are going to be. I’m going for Clare; the home venue being the deciding factor.
To Waterford and Limerick. Both teams are under massive pressure, but more so Waterford, having lost their first two games, another defeat and they’re gone early for the second year in a row. They actually played well in patches against Clare and Tipp, just not well enough, for long enough.
I think Waterford need to start building a good defence. Austin Gleeson should be started at centre-back, his best position. At the moment he isn’t playing anywhere really, giving out to players around him and Waterford are getting nothing out of him.
Give him responsibility of that position and build the defence around him then. That could be the future way for Waterford.
Waterford have got to get their discipline right as well. That is something that can bring you down very fast.
Limerick got a hiding from Cork in their own back yard and that’s not nice for All-Ireland champions. They are hurting. The wake-up call they needed. Or will they be able to wake up?
I’m sure John Kiely has been laying down the law. Has he the leaders to get them out of this? I believe he does.
Waterford might have nothing to play for when they take on Cork in their last game. Limerick to win.