INTO another few days where all you can say is... ‘what a weekend of hurling!’
We’ve Kilkenny and Galway, a mouthwatering one in Salthill, Clare and Waterford in Ennis, and the most traditional game of all, Tipperary and Cork in Thurles.
Now before I go on about the games, I can’t understand the complaining from people about the players having to play maybe four weeks on the trot. They are nearly professional athletes now with all the training they are doing, and I think they are well able for it. If the games weren’t on, they would still be training anyway.
I believe the players actually enjoy the matches, and given a choice they would rather play matches every week than train.
I would call this Sunday ‘moving Sunday’, especially the games between Cork and Tipp, and Clare and Waterford, and especially moving day for Tipp and Clare, after their losses last weekend. They can’t afford to loose this weekend.
Taking the Tipp-Cork game which will probably have the biggest attendance, this is a great chance for Cork to put Tipp to the sword, because remember that sword is at their throat now. Can Cork finish them off? But there is an old saying ‘beware of the wounded animal’ and talking to Tipperary people they are very wounded at the moment.
The big question is, Is there a backlash coming from them? I’m sure being proud people, Tipp will have a backlash.
Michael Ryan and his management team will have a big job to get them right for this one.
But as I said several times before, is there something really lacking in this Tipp team?
More importantly, are Tipp good enough?
Is the hunger there? Is the drive there? Because they lacked that big time on Sunday last against Limerick.
Are the Tipperary ‘stand-out’ players as good as they were?
Will we find out on Sunday if Pádraic Maher, Bonner Maher, Seamus Callanan, Noel McGrath, Brendan Maher and John O’Dwyer have got the killer instinct any more.
Remember some of them are around the scene now for nearly 10 years.
All brilliant players, but have they still got that hunger?
If they have, it will be a big plus for Tipp because these are the real leaders of this team.
I’m expecting one big effort from them on Sunday and they will need it facing a team that has got great belief in themselves now.
Although it wasn’t a perfect performance against Clare, I don’t believe Cork were at their best last Sunday.
I think the pressure of playing at home in their first game probably held them back a bit.
I think Cork will play with a lot more freedom now that they have started with a win.
Battling qualities will have to be high this weekend especially in their defence, who were outstanding last weekend especially that full back line - really defended well as a unit.
Same again will be needed here and more, as any room given to the Tipp forwards will be converted.
I don’t expect to see too many changes in the Cork team, though Shane Kingston could be in for the injured Robbie O’Flynn.
Cork have a strong panel of players now with fellas like Tim O’Mahony and Eoin Cadogan for the defence - also Jamie Coughlan back on the panel and Dean Brosnan, who came on last Sunday and did well.
This game will be some battle, blood will be boiling.
I expect Cork to heap the pressure on Tipp and just about shade this game, but it will take a massive massive effort.
Now to the other game - Clare and Waterford. Clare suffered a loss as well as Tipperary, but you would have to say they performed a lot better than them last Sunday.
The big plus for Clare is that this game is on in Ennis, and it is very hard to beat a Clare team in Ennis - and as it should be - their record there is very good.
But I think this Sunday they just have got to take the chances that come up.
Some of their shooting and decision making last week in Cork was not good.
Although Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin hit a good few scores, I still think they are in and out of the game too much, they need to be more consistent for the 70 minutes.
Also Shane O’Donnell and Conor McGrath, Clare need more out of them up front.
The team they are playing, Waterford, the last real game they played was the All-Ireland Final last year. As we all know they had no interest in playing in the league this year.
Derek McGrath has put all his eggs in the one basket.
I believe they have prepared brilliantly for this championship and have left no stone unturned to be at their best for their first day out.
Waterford have wonderful skillful players, especially their six defenders... or is it seven?
No doubling their class, and no doubting the class of Jamie Barron and Kevin Moran at midfield, but it’s from here on they seem to have problems.
Will their forwards get enough of scores? Or more importantly, who will their forwards be?
Word is Austin Gleeson and Pauric Mahony. Still they have Tom Devine, Patrick Curran and that old timer Brick Walsh.
Will Waterford play their old style game or will it be 15 on 15? I’m expecting a big performance from them, but they will find it very difficult, especially in Ennis.
Should be a cracker.
Could it be one of the games to end in a draw? Maybe.