THE Munster hurling final.
I have to say the hurling that Tipperary played in the first 35 minutes of this game was the best I have seen so far this year. Their score-taking, their movement, and their use of the ball, but above all their skill, was a joy to watch. They had Limerick at sixes and sevens all over the pitch.
But I think at halftime they must have taken some sleeping tablets because they did not come out for the second half. Limerick completely steam-rolled them into submission. It was the biggest collapse I can ever remember
The big question here is: are Limerick that good or was it just Tipperary faded out completely?
They say old soldiers never die, they just fade away and that is what happened Tipp here. I did have a concern about the mileage on some of their players, and that was found out big time last Sunday.
Anyway, to the real knock-out games this weekend.
I cannot understand people giving out about the weather as I think this is real hurling weather, ground rock-hard, ball flying all over the place.
Cork and Clare; I think both camps happy with the draw, but maybe not the venue, one team anyway. I'm sure Cork would have preferred Thurles.
The weather is a big plus for Cork, especially with their very pacey players in their forwards. I think they will run at the Clare defence at every opportunity, that is the type of forwards they have now, fellas like Jack O'Connor, Shane Kingston, Robbie O'Flynn and Conor Cahalane. The only trouble is they did this against Limerick, but they did not get the scores, apart from Jack O'Connor, who is beginning to find his feet at this level.
Clare's full-back line of Paul Flanagan, Conor Cleary, and the very talented Rory Hayes, will have to be on top of their game here, as Cork will be targeting that line.
It will be some battle between Jack and Rory here. Also very interesting between Conor Cleary and Patrick Horgan. Horgan was not at his best against Limerick the last day both from frees and play, maybe should have been taken off, but he is a class player.
And class players rarely have two off days in a row.
Also, there should be a great battle between John Conlan and Seamus Harnedy. This could have a great bearing on the result. Harnedy was a big loss to Cork when he had to go off against Limerick, if he is injury-free, Conlan will have his hands full.
Could Bill Cooper start if he is fit to play? Clare are strong there with Cathal Malone and Colm Galvin.
Another key area will be the Cork half-back line versus the Clare half-forward line.
Eoin Cadogan and Tim O'Mahony were very impressive against Limerick and did a great marking job against Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey. They will be on two completely different types of players in this game, in the speedy Ryan Taylor and equally speedy David Reidy.
Another question now is, where will Clare play Tony Kelly? By his own high standards, Tony did not have a great day against Wexford last week.
Clare need him on top of his form. Who will Cork put on him? Will it be Mark Coleman? Or will they give the job to Cork's best defender the last day, Sean O'Donoghue?
Aron Shanagher is a big target man for Clare. I presume Damian Cahalane will be picking him up; the winner here will have a huge bearing on the outcome.
Cahalane had a good outing against Limerick the last day when he handled Seamus Flanagan with great authority. Shanagher is very powerful, but he needs to score more.
Cork were impressive for long periods against Limerick. The lack of penetration in their attack was their undoing.
Cork will go into this game full of confidence, and their record against Clare in Championship is very good, and as a great hurling man of this parish said to me after the Cork-Limerick game, he fancies Cork to be in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Only two games away from it now, but I'm sure Clare are thinking along the same lines as well.
As the winner of this game will more than likely be playing Dublin in the quarter-final.
It's the opposite with Clare, with their U20s and minor getting a thrashing in Munster, so there is big pressure on Brian Lohan and his team to deliver.
They have great momentum and the spirit is very high in the camp. This game will go to the wire, and we might even enjoy extra-time in the sun, and anything could happen after that!