John Horgan on Cork's huge challenge in taking down champions Limerick

Rebel hurlers need to prove their worth at Semple Stadium on Saturday night
John Horgan on Cork's huge challenge in taking down champions Limerick

Cork's Patrick Horgan will need to be at his best on Saturday if Cork are to beat Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

JUDGEMENT Day: probably the best way to describe Cork’s crucial Munster championship assignment with the country’s best hurling team last season.

We use the term last season because what has transpired in the past may not be the case the next time around.

However, based on what did happen last season, Limerick have earned the right to retain the status as the best in the business and until another team comes along and knocks them off that lofty perch, that situation won’t change.

Cork are the first team to get that opportunity tomorrow night in Thurles and it is, undoubtedly, the game of what is a major hurling championship weekend.

Every pundit in the country will row in behind the reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions and that will brook little argument anywhere.

The league form of both counties was a bit similar, Cork starting off very well and finishing poorly while it was the opposite way around with Limerick.

In the meeting between the counties in the secondary competition, the team from Shannonside was far superior but form in the league is something that can be very misleading.

Given how well Antrim had performed in Division 1B, defeating Clare and drawing with Wexford as well as securing the points on offer against Laois, there was an expectation that they would give Dublin a right run for their money last Saturday in Leinster.

But look what happened, Dublin ripped them asunder, rendering all their good work in the league rather meaningless.

Clare appeared to be in all sorts of trouble after that defeat to Antrim but when it came to the real thing last Sunday in Thurles they were far too strong for Waterford even if the margin at the end was just two points.

It was a four-point hammering and the scoreline was not a true reflection on the dominance of Clare, according to John Mullane in the game’s aftermath.

There is no doubt that Limerick possesses the best squad of players in the country, something quite similar to what Kilkenny had in their days of dominance when they won four All-Ireland titles on the trot.

And that has been one of the biggest contributory factors to Limerick’s two titles in 2018 and 2020.

They have players that can come in and change the course of a game and that has been proven.

Their team does not select itself because of the fierce competition for places and they have a situation where only certain players can be guaranteed starting places They have a physical presence contained in their team that few can match and that has been a problem for most of their recent opponents.

Right now it would appear that only Galway can come near them in those stakes.

So should Cork bother turning up at all tomorrow night? Of course, they should and they can reflect on two years ago when they took down the then All-Ireland champions.

And of all the Munster counties, Cork are the one that Limerick are most wary of and will be even more so on this occasion because of the fact that the vast majority don’t give the Leesiders much of a chance.

Cork’s manager Kieran Kingston will be hoping that the dark clouds over Cork's performances in the Munster Championship can lift on Saturday night. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Cork’s manager Kieran Kingston will be hoping that the dark clouds over Cork's performances in the Munster Championship can lift on Saturday night. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Kieran Kingston gave youth its fling in the national league and some of those given their opportunity performed quite well and will be involved for some time to come.

GAMBLE

Cork hurling is heading into a better place than it has been for some time with the potential of those young guns and what will be got out of the current U20 crop that have Dublin in their sights in the All-Ireland final.

The big poser for the management is, do they go with some of these bright, younger players or will they be more conservative in their team selection.

A lot will have been determined in their selection policy with what transpired on the training ground in the past number of weeks and in their A v B games.

One of the big positives from the league was the team’s ability to score goals and that will, more than likely, have to be the case again tomorrow night.

Young players like Jack O’Connor and Alan Connolly showed up well in that department and there is plenty of pace and skill too in the side.

We saw last Sunday in Thurles how a good start worked in Clare’s favour, putting up some superb points early on to set the tone for most of the rest of the game.

And that’s exactly what Cork will require too, getting some early scores on the board to build the confidence levels, all the more so if some of the younger players are included.

The puckout strategy certainly did not work in the league meeting between the counties and it will be very interesting to see if the working of the ball through the lines strategy is maintained.

That certainly may have to change because of its risk.

Carrying the underdog tag is always a less pressurised situation as against being raging hot favourites and that’s what the scenario will be tomorrow night.

For Cork to win, nearly everything must fall into place and at least 12 of the chosen starting 15 must play to their full potential.

They must be well in the game at the interval and after the second-half water break Simply put, they must give Limerick a lot to think about from the word go.

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