CORK footballers will be interested observers of events at the LIT Gaelic Grounds this afternoon when Limerick-Waterford kick-starts the Munster championship at 3pm.
Cork await the winners in a fortnight with the odds heavily stacked on meeting Limerick at the same venue, but if Waterford pull off a shock, the game will be played at Pairc Ui Chaiomh.
Limerick won 2-14 to 0-9 last season and nothing has happened during a condensed league to suggest a change in fortunes for Waterford, now under the direction of Shane Ronayne of Mourneabbey ladies football fame.
Although missing out on promotion from Division 3, Limerick acquitted themselves well, defeating Munster champions Tipperary by a point and Wicklow by 10.
Their lone defeat was a two-point loss to Offaly and Limerick also pushed hotly fancied Derry all the way in the promotion play-off, going down by 0-17 to 0-13.
Manager Billy Lee will look to Iain Corbett, Darragh Treacy, Tommie Childs, Hugh Bourke, Robbie Burke and John Ryan to extend their season.
Waterford played only two games in division 4, defeating Wexford away by a point to register a morale-boosting victory only to slump badly at home to Carlow. And they couldn’t make use of the Fraher Field for the promotion play-off with Antrim, who were comfortable 1-15 to 0-11 winners.
In his championship debut as manager, Ronayne hopes keeper Paudie Hunt, midfielder Jason Curry and full-forward Dylan Guiry can help create an upset.
Limerick were seconds away from reaching last year’s final until Conor Sweeney’s wonder point forced extra-time and we all know what unfolded after that.
This evening Kerry, still hurting from last season’s ambush in Cork, get their campaign up and running against Clare in Killarney at 7pm.
You’d have to feel sympathy for the Banner given it will be their seventh time in eight seasons taking on the Kingdom with the usual result, a resounding Kerry victory.
Manager Colm Collins must wonder what he did wrong to endure such bad luck in the provincial draws because they’d fancy themselves against the rest.
Clare played in the Division 2 promotion play-off against Mayo, who had to battle to the end for the right result in Ennis.
It’s a measure of Clare’s standing at the moment, but this is a different Kerry as teams found to their cost in the league.
They’re scoring goals for fun and the forwards have license to do what they do so brilliantly, compiling big scores.
Clare will try and frustrate Kerry by withdrawing large chunks of players behind the ball, but it will make no difference. Kerry will progress to a semi-final with Tipperary, who will have home advantage.
Connacht sees Mayo travelling to Sligo for what should be a routine victory for the visitors despite missing Cillian O’Connor, who is out of the championship due an Achilles injury.
Tomorrow, there’s action in the other provinces with Donegal-Down getting Ulster underway in Newry.
Donegal lost to Dublin by four points in the league semi-final and have a nice blend of experience and youth.
Michael Murphy, who strained a hamstring against Monaghan and didn’t feature in the subsequent matches against Armagh and the Dubs, returns for his 11th campaign as captain and his 163rd game in the Donegal jersey.
There are three games in Leinster with the first match bringing veteran managers John Maughan and Mickey Harte together for Offaly-Louth in Navan.
Maughan’s Offaly played the division 3 final last weekend and lost to highly fancied Derry, but still achieved their main target of promotion to division 2 next season, when Cork will be one of their opponents.
Munster SFC quarter-finals: Limerick v Waterford, LIT Gaelic Grounds, 3pm; Kerry v Clare, Killarney, 7pm.
Connacht SFC quarter-final: Sligo v Mayo, Markievicz Park, 4.30.
Leinster SFC R1: Offaly v Louth, Navan, 1.30; Wicklow v Wexford, Aughrim, 3pm; Carlow v Longford, O’Connor Park, 4.30.
Ulster SFC preliminary round: Down v Donegal, Newry, 1pm.