John Horgan: Cork and Waterford best placed to challenge Limerick hurlers

Liam Cahill opted to stay with the Déise after pushing the champions hard in 2021
John Horgan: Cork and Waterford best placed to challenge Limerick hurlers

Dan Morrissey of Limerick catches the sliotar ahead of Robbie O'Flynn and Darragh Fitzgibbon of Cork in Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

BEING manager of the Tipperary senior hurling team is regarded as one of the most prestigious on the GAA landscape.

When Liam Sheedy decided his time was up after defeat to Waterford in the All-Ireland qualifiers, the perception was that his successor would be Liam Cahill.

And when the position was offered to Cahill by the Tipperary County Board most of the Premier County faithful believed that it would be a done deal. After all, Cahill had been hugely successful as a minor and U20 boss in the county, winning All-Ireland titles, his appointment would have been seen as a natural progression.

But when the news broke last week that the current Waterford boss had decided that he was going to try and continue the good work that he had overseen in that county there was a lot of surprise. Not too many people would turn down the opportunity to manage their own county, all the more so given the high profile of a mad hurling county like Tipperary.

But Cahill is a very shrewd individual and he thought that it would make more sense to have another go with a Waterford team that will be regarded as one of the leading contenders to try and unseat Limerick next season. And they will be bolstered by the return of star players, Tadhg de Búrca and Pauric Mahony.

Waterford manager Liam Cahill. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Waterford manager Liam Cahill. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tipperary, on the other hand, are perceived to be in transition, with Brendan Maher already gone into retirement. Waterford, at this point in time, would certainly be seen as a better bet to travel further than Tipp next season.

So, it made more sense for Cahill to stay in the Déise County. The Tipp job, at the time of writing, is now up for grabs again.

The Munster championship will revert to a round-robin format next season and that means, of course, that two leading hurling counties will not be in the All-Ireland championship.

Two from Limerick, Waterford, Cork, Clare and Tipperary will have their season terminated very early.

John Kiely will continue the fantastic work he is doing in Limerick, Kieran Kingston will try to travel the extra few miles with Cork and end a now 17-year famine on Leeside, the longest in the county’s illustrious history.

Brian Lohan will hope for better cooperation all round in Clare and with Peter Duggan back on the scene, the Banner County won’t be taken lightly by anybody.

After all, they and not Cork could have faced Limerick if it wasn’t for Patrick Collins’ sublime save from Tony Kelly in the last act of their All-Ireland qualifier.

It might seem a good bit in the distance yet but it will come around quickly enough and when it does that often used word ‘minefield’ will come into play again in the Munster championship.

And it would take a brave person to forecast who the three counties will be to emerge from the province.

Limerick will surely be one of them but thereafter it will really be a minefield with little separating the other four counties.

Going on this year’s form and, while there will be no certainty, Waterford and Cork will be the fancies to occupy the other two spots.

Cork will require urgent surgery in key areas, maybe address a different strategy from puck-outs and find a couple of players who will seriously threaten for places. Promoting a few players from the successes at U20 level and integrating them fairly quickly will have to be done.

Being in an All-Ireland final one year guarantees nothing, all the more so given how competitive the province of Munster now is. We have already stated, the road back to Croke Park in 2022 is going to be long and winding.

Given how successful it was before the pandemic, the return of the round-robin format will be welcomed. It gives very little margin for error and the opening game for all the counties will be crucial.

In any round-robin format getting off on the right foot will be vital and when a county has home advantage that too must be capitalised upon.

All five Munster counties will start with a clean slate next May but things will change very quickly after that Everybody will be trying their utmost to knock Limerick off their very lofty perch and before a ball will be struck, that looks like being a gargantuan task.

But hope springs eternal in all counties.

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