John Horgan: Limerick trip offers Cork hurlers a chance to confirm progress

Kieran Kingston's squad has impressed in the first three matches of the league but the Gaelic Grounds is a major step up
John Horgan: Limerick trip offers Cork hurlers a chance to confirm progress

Cork's Luke Meade is tackled by Joey Boyle and Robbie Greville of Westmeath. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

CORK head for the Gaelic Grounds tomorrow night for a sort of dress rehearsal with the All-Ireland champions before the far more important championship engagement later in the month.

Limerick go into this game without registering a win thus far in the league, just the one point secured in their draw with Tipperary and losing to Galway and Waterford.

That’s in stark contrast to last season when they swept all before them to win the Munster League, the Munster championship, the league and of course, the All-Ireland.

There are certainly no panic buttons being pressed on Shannonside at the moment but, at the same time, team boss John Kiely will want to get back on the winning trail.

They have just the two league games to fulfil now against Cork and Westmeath before they take on Cork again in the Munster championship opener.

And with all respects to Westmeath, that game will not be overly revealing.

So maybe that makes tomorrow night’s encounter with Kieran Kingston’s team that bit more interesting.

Then again could there be a bit of a shadow boxing dimension to the game given the fact that the sides have a championship meeting a few short weeks later.

Cork have Galway coming to Leeside for the last league assignment and we should get a far greater insight into what the championship 15 will be for the Munster semi-final in that outing.

You could not say that Kingston and his selectors have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal but competition for starting places looks to be far greater this time.

And that’s exactly how it should be even if it creates headaches for those charged with the responsibility of signing off on the championship unit.

There is a lot of responsibility on a selection committee to get things right on the big day and we saw in the Champions League final last Saturday night how things didn’t work out for Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

City had only started one of their 60 games this season without Rodri and Fernandinho but he dropped both for the big showdown with Chelsea.

As events transpired it was a mistake, one that City paid a very high price for.

Too much tinkering with a team can backfire on you, in other words overthinking things in relation to what awaits you once the team takes to the field.

Selecting the Cork 15 for the championship opener is not an easy task.

Eight or nine, maybe one or two more are probably nailed down, Patrick Collins, Mark Coleman, Sean O’Donoghue, Damien Cahalane, Rob Downey, Tim O’Mahony, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade, Patrick Horgan, Shane Kingston and Alan Cadogan.

Cork’s goalkeeper Patrick Collins. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Cork’s goalkeeper Patrick Collins. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

That’s 10 or 11 that we have listed given that they all report a clean bill of health which subsequently brings the next question, how many of the younger brigade that have been doing so well in the three games thus far will get the nod.

Among those that should be in serious contention are Sean O’Leary Hayes, Daire Connery, Shane Barrett and Alan Connolly.

Deccie Dalton has not featured so far and neither has Colm Spillane because of injury and that has to be factored in as well. Seamus Harnedy has been injured too but a fully fit Harnedy will probably get the nod because of his vast experience.

Tomorrow’s game and the last game against Galway will probably be make-your-mind-up time for the management although at this point in time they must be closing in on their starting 15. So back to the game on the Ennis Road tomorrow night. 

Cork will certainly want to continue to gather momentum and Brian Cody summed that up last Sunday in the aftermath of the win over Wexford.

“Momentum is important, it’s good to build momentum and winning is always important.’’

On the other side of the coin, Limerick will want to get back to winning ways too after two losses and Kiely won’t want to enter the championship on the back of just one league victory which would be against Westmeath.

We are always told that one should never place any great emphasis in league results.

That might be true to some extent but dismissing the secondary competition results would be wrong too.

There might be exceptions, Kilkenny hammered Wexford last Sunday in Nowlan Park and it’s a near certainty those sides will meet again in the Leinster semi-final.

Alan Murphy of Kilkenny in action against Liam Ryan and Glen Malone of Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Alan Murphy of Kilkenny in action against Liam Ryan and Glen Malone of Wexford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

To be honest the league affair was a bit of a mismatch and that’s one league encounter we should not read a whole pile into.

Courtesy of GAA Go I watched the whole game and the Cats were very impressive at times and apart from TJ Reid, Billy Ryan and Alan Murphy posted some great scores.

Davy Fitz did not use the Covid controversy in the county as an excuse but one would bet their bottom dollar that the championship showdown will not be as lopsided although one would expect Kilkenny to triumph again that day.

Yes, from here on in the bar will rise that bit more for all the counties and the interest among the general public will intensify too even if they have to rely on TV to draw their own conclusions.

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