AS the Cork hurlers undertake their 48-hour ‘Puck for Pieta’ this weekend, they will do so with a set of fixtures to properly target for the first time since late autumn last year.
A week before the return to training, the event will see each player puck for one hour before passing the torch on to the next player, running continuously from 4pm Friday until 4pm Sunday. Activity will be streamed live on the Instagram page which has been set up for the event and all players will be pucking from darkness into light to raise funds and awareness for Pieta House.
While the early part of Cork’s, and every other county’s, year has been characterised by Zoom calls and individual training – bar some high-profile breachings of the ban – without a set schedule there was something nebulous about it all. Thankfully, the release of the master fixture plan last week brought some clarity and that has been increased with the circulation of the fixtures for the Allianz Hurling League.
At the same time the compacted schedule means that league form is likely to be a strong indicator of championship form.
Sunday, May 9 at 3.45pm is when it will all begin with a home clash against Waterford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. As well as wanting to get off to a good start in the league, Cork will be keen to show that last year’s defeat to Waterford in the Munster semi-final was not a proper reflection of the side.
Liam Cahill’s team won by four points that day but Patrick Horgan’s late goal for Cork gave the scoreline a closer look than was truly accurate. From there, Waterford went on to reach the All-Ireland final while Cork went into the qualifiers, beating Dublin and losing to Tipperary.
Six days later, on May 15 at 7.30pm, it’s a trip to Semple Stadium to take on Tipperary, another repeat of a championship clash from last year. On that occasion in Limerick, Cork gave a good account, clawing back a four-point deficit in the second half to briefly lead only for Tipp to come again. Incidentally, if the counties were to clash in the Munster championship, Cork would have home advantage as their last provincial knockout game was the 2017 quarter-final in Thurles.
It’s back to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, May 23 at 2pm for the visit of Westmeath. Last year, the Lake County finished bottom of the section and had to beat Carlow in a play-off to preserve their top-flight status and they will be favourites to finish sixth again but it’s worth bearing in mind that Cork only had four points to spare at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar last February.
After a weekend off, Cork resume with their fourth game, against Limerick at the LIT Gaelic Grounds on Saturday, June 5 at 7.15pm. This is a fixture that could be replicated in the championship as the last pre-round-robin Cork-Limerick Munster meeting was the 2014 final at the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Things round off on Sunday, June 13 as Galway visit the Páirc for the final game, which has a 1.45pm throw-in time.
Prior to all of that is the Pieta fundraiser this weekend. John Dempsey from Pieta House said: “Pieta want to wish the 2021 Cork senior hurling panel all the very best. Cork GAA over the past number of years have always and continue to support Pieta, which has been amazing, that support has helped saved so many lives, that support has created so much awareness.
“Pieta Cork is the busiest Pieta House in the country. Over the past 12 months, like all of society, it has been an extremely difficult time, we've had to adjust to over the phone therapy and video therapy, and even though we've open back up as an essential service, we are limited in whom we can see. We have increased our therapists to help with the increased demand, our phone lines and text services has seen a huge spike in those reaching out and seeking support. Pieta Cork has delivered over 21,000 hours of counselling in its Cork centre since 2019 and has helped over 2,800 people in that time.”
Those who wish to following the players over the weekend can do so here.
To avail of Pieta services, which are free of charge, please visit www.pieta.ie for all centre contact details and the National Therapy Services phoneline 0818-111126. Pieta provides 24/7 support – if you are suicidal, self-harming or bereaved you can contact via the Freephone crisis helpline on 1800-247247 or text HELP to 51444 (standard message rates apply).