BEFORE we go on to this week's games, we need to look back at last weekend, especially the Cork Limerick one.
I felt if John Kiely and Kieran Kingston were serious about this it would be a decent match. John Kiely took it a little bit more seriously and Kieran Kingston was a lot more relaxed about it all, and this reflected on the performance of Cork, as they were really outclassed by Limerick in every aspect.
Limerick scored at will from the start with no pressure being applied by Cork in any way. I know Limerick are a powerful unit but when they are given that much room and that much space to work in without any challenge from the opposition, then you are looking at only one result.
While Limerick were missing a few of their top-class players, their replacements were well up to the task. In my opinion, Cork were missing at least half of their championship team and their deputies were not up to this standard yet.
I think Kieran and his management team were trying to find out if they were. This put extra pressure on the team as a whole, even some of their more established players struggled a bit. That started with the goalkeeper. Patrick Collins' puck-out strategy did not work out very well, most unusual for him, as it is a strong point of his.
Also, the Cork defence got a real roasting here, both with Limericks physicality and hurling skill. Cian Lynch was completely running the show and gave Mark Coleman the run-around.
Speaking of Coleman, the one thing that he is not is a man-marker. He is very good in a free role, a big difference in that type of game.
I think it is something Cork need to look at, and I think they need a stopper at centre-back with more of a physical presence, and a guy like Mark tidying up, either behind or in front. Maybe a midfield role might suit him better, where his attacking skills and score-taking would be more of an advantage to Cork.
I believe a partnership with Darragh Fitzgibbon would reap big dividends for Cork, as they are both very much attacking players. And I think Cork need to go with more physical players in their defence, especially in their half-back line, good athletic players with plenty of physical presence.
But then again I presume the Cork management know what is going on in training and what is best for the team.
At least they improved in the second half against Limerick when they introduced a few subs, Shane Barrett and Patrick Horgan. Their best player on the night was Jack O'Connor though, he took his goals very well and gave Richie English a hard time, which was no mean feat.
While I think Kieran Kingston still has problems to sort out with his team, I also believe John Kiely has issues. Even though Cork were very poor and didn't show any appetite for battle, they still scored 2-19 which is a big score in any game. They also missed at least three goals, so I'm sure Limerick have a few things to get sorted before the championship rematch.
Anyway, this weekend's game for Cork is one they would have targeted as the real warm-up game before the championship. I'm fairly sure you will see a different Cork team this weekend, both in personnel and attitude, and they need to be.
They are coming up against one of the best teams in the country, and a team who are playing very well at the moment, as proved last weekend, with a big win and a big score against Waterford. They're a side very much like Limerick in physicality and also hurling wise, but they tend to score a lot more goals.
Galway seem to be very focused this year. Their fitness levels are very high.
They seem to be playing very direct hurling into their good forwards, and this is where the Cork defence will be really tested, with guys like Joe Canning, Conor Cooney, Brian Concannon and especially Conor Whelan, who is probably one of the best forwards in the country at the moment.
At midfield, you have Cathal Mannion who is also distributing great ball to the forwards and getting on the scoresheet himself.
I believe the performances from Cork's management and players will be a lot different this Sunday; I'd say you will see a real bite to this game.
Cork need this to build confidence for what's going to happen in three weeks.