I AM looking forward to the walk down the Marina on Sunday.
It’s hard to imagine what it will be like so early in the year. Is the Munster championship really starting on Easter Sunday? Have the GAA gone raving mad starting all this so early in the year?
In my opinion, the Munster championship should always start in the summer months. Why change for the sake of change?
If change had to be made I would prefer to see the club championship played first in the months of March, April and May, and then continue to inter-county in June, July and August. To me, that would make more sense than what we have now.
And have the All-Ireland final as it was in September and finish the hurling with the showpiece of the year. This would give everyone a break for the winter.
Perhaps the powers that be in Croke Park will take note, as they always seem to take my suggestions on board!
Early or not, here we are, and what a game to start with. Limerick coming to Cork, not their favourite ground, and over the years they have proved that, especially when they are taking on Cork.
But it’s different for them now; they come as the top team in the country. They have been for the last number of years, and have the titles to prove it.
One big question I have about them now is: have they got the real hunger? Only for the Kilkenny loss in 2019, Limerick would be going for five All-Irelands in a row.
That takes a lot of hurling and a lot of commitment and I know they are a young team, but they are playing to a very strict system, which can be very wearing on players after a number of years.
Will that system change this year? We won’t know until Sunday.
Limerick have put all their eggs in one basket this year; all they want is the All-Ireland title again.
It is rumoured they have a few injuries and that is par for the course before any championship starts, but if Kyle Hayes, William O’Donoghue, and Seamus Flanagan are carrying knocks, no matter how strong your panel is, it is hard to replace players of that calibre — not alone for their ability but their leadership qualities as well.
Limerick will need them all and need them playing to their best.
What will Cork bring to this contest? Will they bring something we have not seen before?
Surely they will bring something different to this game. They will have to and they will have to start in their defence.
In my opinion, Cork have too many ball players in their defence. Mark Coleman plays a lot of ball, but how effective is he as a defender?
Can he mark somebody, can he hold the centre, can he stop men coming through? Not alone him, can Tim O’Mahony and Ciarán Joyce do likewise? Can they protect the full-back line?
Maybe Cork did not have as good as hurlers in the past in defence, but they knew how to defend and they definitely knew how to play on the edge.
This Cork team will have to learn to do that, especially this Sunday. They are meeting a team that is always on the edge, and a bit over it at times. Cork need to match that, especially on their home ground to get their fanatical supporters behind them.
Sean O’Donoghue was Cork’s best defender in the league — he did a great marking job on Dessie Hutchinson in the final. It should be a real contest between himself and Aaron Gillane, no love lost there.
I think Cork will want battles like that all over the field, and more importantly, will want to come out on top in those battles. Easier said than done.
Cork need to be very aggressive from the word go, especially guys like Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Barrett, Robbie O’Flynn, Shane Kingston, if playing, Seamus Harnedy, and Patrick Horgan.
Limerick have dominated all these players in the past and will continue to do so if they don’t do something about it.
Limerick are odds on-favourite for the All-Ireland.
They will bring a lot of things to Cork on Sunday. Will they bring that savage hunger that is always required, or will they meet a team that is fed up of being beaten by them, and will have more savage hunger than them?
We wait and see.
The other Munster championship game in Walsh Park sees second favourite for the All-Ireland Waterford take on a very quiet Tipperary.
We all know where Waterford are, but I think Tipperary are coming into this game under the radar, which is a great way to arrive.
All the pressure is on Waterford and sometimes that can get to a team like Waterford, especially at home.
You would wonder if they would be better off playing Tipp in Thurles where they seem to like to play.
I believe it suits their style better in the open spaces of Thurles.
That’s why I give Tipp a right good chance in this game — the tight pitch in Welsh park will suit them. It should be another cracker of a game.
Have a happy Easter Sunday.