WE'LL know next Monday morning what route the Cork hurlers and footballers will have to take to glory this summer.
The league is only around the corner, starting with the hurling on May 8-9, but championship remains the benchmark for a successful season on Leeside, despite recent disappointments.
The Cork hurlers will have the safety net of a backdoor if they're beaten in the province; the footballers will be out unless they lift the Munster title, which most likely means beating Kerry in Killarney, something the county hasn't managed since 1995.
Usually, the provincial draws take place in the dark of winter but due to Covid Kieran Kingston and Ronan McCarthy will learn their opponents roughly 10 weeks before throw-in. Post-pandemic, that's the way forward for the GAA, there was never a need to enter a phoney war six months before the championship.
Last season the hurlers got a favourable draw against Waterford, but were outworked and outhurled on Halloween in, fittingly perhaps, an eerily empty Semple Stadium. It was viewed as a 50-50 beforehand, with the Rebels tipped on the basis of the Déise's inability to get out of the Munster round-robin series in 2018 and '19.
It turned out Tipp management duo Liam Cahill and Mikey Bevans had transformed Waterford, guiding them to the All-Ireland despite a Munster final defeat to Limerick as the season unfolded. They'd previously shown their pedigree at the helm of the Tipp minors and U21s/U20s, unfortunately for Cork.
One significant advantage they had in 2020 was that the Waterford county final took place on August 30.
Cork should be better prepared this time out, whoever they're paired with, as all hurling counties will have the same build-up and five league games to gear up. As for the draw itself, avoiding Limerick would be preferable given their dominance last season, notwithstanding Cork's solid record against them under John Kiely.
For the footballers, the nightmare scenario is a Munster semi-final away to Kerry. The Kingdom will be ferociously motivated after the smash and grab last winter. Kingdom bainisteoir Peter Keane came under savage pressure in the wake of Mark Keane's late goal and a wounded Kerry is a dangerous animal.
Cork and Tipp are seeded having reached last season's final and go straight into the semi-finals, where they could be paired with the other four counties on the other side of the draw. Kerry will meet one of Clare, Limerick and Waterford in the first round. Best-case scenario is Kerry, Clare and Tipp on one loaded hialf of the draw away from Ronan McCarthy's side.
On the flip side, Cork were far better as underdogs in last year's Munster semi-final than the decider when they were the fancy to beat Tipp.
The Rebels are in Division 2 South with Clare, Laois and Kildare. That guarantees them three games in the regular and then a promotion or relegation play-off against a team from Division 2 North, which contains Mayo, Meath, Westmeath and Down.