THE start to the 2021 hurling championship was not great by any means. The one-sided games in Leinster and Clare’s win over Waterford failed to start the summer with a bang, or much good hurling either.
Even though it was a great win for Clare over Waterford, the game was poor, with sloppy shooting from both sides, a bit of a letdown really for the first round of the championship. Can we see something different this week? Hopefully.
Cork and Limerick have produced some great championship games in the past, with a great bit of bite and intensity in them. Can we expect more of the same? Limerick are red-hot favourites going into this game, but I’m sure John Kiely will not take any notice. As I have said before many times, Limerick always had a fear of playing Cork. Maybe that’s changed.
Cork were always a very confident side, even cocky and a bit arrogant at times, but that seems to be gone out of them now. Maybe it’s time to get some of this back again.
And there is nothing wrong with having those qualities. After all, Cork are one of the most decorated counties in the GAA. They need to start thinking like that now.
Cork will know what Limerick will bring here. Plenty of physicality and intensity, hurling on the edge, with a set pattern with strong defenders like Sean Finn, Dan Morrissey, Diarmuid Byrnes and Kyle Hayes. Add in the physicality of Will O’Donoghue, Gearoid Hegarty, Tom Morrissey, Seamus Flanagan, Aaron Gillane and that master of everything Cian Lynch, we can see the huge task that is facing Cork. Not alone are all these guys, powerful men, they are also very good hurlers, and every one of them can be a leader.
The big question here is have Limerick any idea what Cork are going to bring? Will we see Cork standing up and making every challenge count? Will they go with the running game? Many think they will.
When I look at the potential of the Cork team, and the weather forecast’s fairly good, this will be a day for real pace. But pace that has to be used smartly. I do not know the lineout, but I think O’Donoghue and O’Leary will be in the full-back line, maybe with Damian Cahalane. This is where Cork have to be really alert and touch tight, especially on someone like Gillane, who needs space.
The Cork half-back line will be the real test. Will they go with Robert Downey, Tim O’Mahony and Mark Coleman? Or will they pick someone like Ger Millerick to do a marking job on Cian Lynch? I think Cork need to assign someone to that task, and Millerick is a good man-marker.
This could release Mark Coleman to midfield to join Darragh Fitzgibbon. To me that would be the ideal partnership, two runners who would be well capable of opening up the Limerick defence and take some scores as well.
There is a huge onus on the Cork attack to keep this Limerick defence moving. Cork have forwards here who would get their place on the Irish sprint team for Tokyo.
Conor Cahalane and Robbie O’Flynn, if they are playing, have to be bombing up and down that field all the time. Also, Shane Kingston and Jack O’Connor, who are even faster again, must use the wide spaces of Thurles.
With the experienced Harnedy and Horgan, I can see plenty scores from the forwards but one thing needed in any championship game is the ability to sacrifice for the team.
Cork need to stand up here and stand up big time. They definitely know the team they are playing will do that, and more. They have a manliness about them and they have a ruthless streak and a killer instinct in them... great qualities. Time for Cork to get these qualities back.
Opinions vary but to have the courage to give one is the important thing. Limerick are the top team in the country at the moment and are many peoples favourite for the All-Ireland as well.
I would love to see both teams really expressing themselves to give us a game to remember. Hurling needs it.
Limerick unbackable favourites; Cork waiting in the long grass.
It’s time they came out of it, and I think they will.