ONE of the questions put to John Meyler in the aftermath of the Cork-Clare league encounter at Cusack Park last Sunday was do you think today’s game will have any bearing on the championship outing between the teams later on in the year?
The Cork boss didn’t answer directly other than stating that Clare are a good team and Cork were missing a number of key players.
So do results of games in February have any real significance going forward, games that might still be three months away?
It is difficult to say really but realistically they shouldn’t.
Winning is most definitely good for any team, irrespective of the status of the competition but when two sides meet again in much-changed circumstances, far better ground conditions and with a full hand to choose from, the outcome from the first meeting largely becomes irrelevant.
Cork might point to last year’s league campaign when they defeated Waterford and Tipperary and followed that up with Munster championship wins over the same two counties.
Cork defeated Clare as well in the league and when the teams met up again in the Munster final the result was the same, a Cork win again.
Wexford defeated Kilkenny in the league last year and they too followed that up with another win in the All-Ireland series. So one could use those games as examples of a league victory laying the groundwork for the subsequent championship win.
There is an entirely different championship structure this year of course in the provinces and Cork could lose again to Clare in the first game in the new Pairc and still win the Munster championship Previously, losing once in the province and that was it where winning that particular title was concerned.
The season is still very much in its infancy but it has the look of being hugely competitive.
We’ll stick with the league for the moment and two leading counties are not going to be involved in the knockout stages.
Next Sunday’s series of games will go a good distance in determining who they will be but Waterford appear to be heading into a relegation showdown with another county.
Cork and Kilkenny are vulnerable after losing two games and another defeat next Sunday against Waterford and Tipperary respectively would plunge them deeper into the mire.
The only certainty at this point in time is that the two issues, the four quarter-finalists and the two relegation candidates will not be decided until the following Sunday and the final series of group games.
Things are not clear-cut either in Division 1B either and only Galway and Limerick are certain of making the knockout stages.
Antrim look doomed with zero points but Offaly, Dublin and Laois are involved in a fierce struggle for the other two qualifying places.
Dublin are having a shocking campaign, losing to Offaly, just edging out Antrim by a point and getting trounced by Limerick.
They host Galway next Sunday and with the holders already through, they might ease off a bit and field a much more experimental side.
Dublin’s last game is against Laois and that could be crucial.
The biggest game in the lower division next weekend is Offaly and Laois in Tullamore where an Offaly win would almost guarantee them qualification for the knock-out stages.
But no games thus far, except for the ones involving Galway and Limerick are a given and when these two collide, as now seems certain, promotion will be on the line that day in Pearse Stadium on March 4th.
Limerick are stirring significantly and John Kiely seems to be finally getting the best out of the group.
And remember, they are without their Na Piarsaigh contingent.
It all adds up to Munster being a minefield in the Summer when the new championship structure comes into play.
As one who had reservations about it initially, it’s shaping up to be hugely competitive with the two home games for each county being crucial.
In fact, two home wins are nearly going to be an imperative. In Cork’s case, you need to collect the maximum return from the encounters with Clare and Limerick.
And, despite Waterford’s current travails, you certainly don’t want to be going to Walsh Park for the last game needing a win.