Former Cork star John Considine accepts that the Munster championship semi-final draw with Limerick is the toughest they could have got, but feels that it will be a good test to show where the Rebels are in relation to the rest of the All-Ireland challengers.
This morning’s draw on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland pitted Cork against the All-Ireland champions, who will be seeking to mark the first contesting of the new Mick Mackey Cup with victory.
At last month’s Munster Council meeting, the decision was taken that the name of the Shannonside legend would adorn the provincial hurling trophy, which up until now had been without a name, like its football equivalent.
Naturally, John Kiely’s side are the favourites to be the first to life the new cup which bears the name of their illustrious countyman and, after Monday morning’s draw for the Munster championship, we now know that it will be the Rebels who provide the first opposition for the Treatymen.
As with the draw for the revised 2020 championship last autumn, Cork have avoided the quarter-final stage of the championship, where Clare and Waterford will face off for a place against Tipperary, while Limerick will meet Cork for the other spot in the provincial decider.
Considine, an All-Ireland winner with Cork in 1990 and manager of the victorious minor team in 2001 and U17 side in 2017, accepts that Limerick will be favourites but doesn’t think that they are in an impregnable position.
“I don’t think anybody in the country who would say that Limerick aren’t the best team,” he said.
“They have two out of three All-Ireland and pick any criteria you want – skill, physique, fitness, knowledge of the game – they’re probably in the top two in all of those.
“They’re a fine side and everybody would acknowledge that. They have so much going for them, but just because they’re the best, doesn’t mean the gap is huge.
“They were the best two years ago and Cork went to the Gaelic Grounds and beat them and Tipp went on and beat them and Kilkenny beat them. They are the best but it’s just what we do in sport, not just GAA – we build up last year’s champions, whether it’s Limerick or the Kansas City Chiefs. Then they lose and we say, ‘It was obvious, we should have seen the signs.’”
To that end, he holds out some hope for Cork.
“Cork will find out where they are,” he says.
“You look at Cork and the closest thing to the All-Ireland senior is the U20, or what was the U21. Cork are in this year’s final with a superb team – I had them at U17 and the second 15 would have been competitive at All-Ireland level.
“The last U21 final and the first U20 one, Cork were in them and so you have guys from 24 down to 20 coming into their key hurling years and you have a manager who knows them back to front.
“If you asked me now to put the house on Cork or Limerick, I’d put it on Limerick but the gap isn’t that big. You look at John Kiely’s first year with Limerick and people were wondering if they were going anywhere but they went up a level and kept doing that.
The last-four tie is likely to take place on the first weekend in July, with the final a fortnight later. If the previous home-and-away arrangement that the counties had was to be in place, it would be Limerick’s turn to host, after Cork won the 2014 Munster final at the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh. However, it appears that the Munster Council’s intention is to hold all games in the championship at neutral venues, so one would imagine that the game will take place in Thurles.
A month before the championship meeting, the sides will clash in the fourth round of the league, the game taking place on Saturday, June 5 at 7.15pm in the LIT Gaelic Grounds.