THE bar has been raised that bit higher for the Cork hurlers as a result of Clare’s emphatic and impressive showing against Tipp.
The importance of winning your opening game in the Munster championship was stressed often enough before its commencement and Clare did that last Sunday in Thurles while Cork did not against Limerick.
Nobody really expected them to but the heavy defeat heaped the pressure on.
Having to travel to Walsh Park for the third game in the round-robin series and a subsequent visit to Thurles to face Tipp further emphasises the importance of Sunday’s test.
Many are now suggesting that by the time Cork encounter Tipperary in the final game, the Premier will have nothing to play for. That would certainly be the case if they lose to Limerick guarantees Cork nothing; no Tipperary bunch of hurlers are going to stand around and let their age-old rivals breeze through.
The Cork management had a good, hard look at Clare, saw their strong points and at the same time, looked at where they could be exploited. Clare had this game all but in the bag by half-time.
Brian Lohan will be very aware of what another victory over Cork would do in terms of reaching the All-Ireland series, with two home games in front of them. Cork, in stark contrast, having given up home advantage here.
No matter what way you look at it now, it’s a tall order for Cork to be one of the three teams to emerge from the province but past Cork teams have regrouped after a very poor loss.
In terms of intensity, aggression and quality, there was very little comparison between the games last weekend.
The Waterford-Limerick affair was a ferocious encounter but the Clare and Tipp game did not reach those heights, though the Banner's confidence levels should be sky-high now.
Prior to the commencement of this Munster campaign, the prediction was that Clare would finish last. The return of Peter Duggan and Shane O’Donnell proved to be a real energiser though and they'll be huge threats.
One thing we almost certainly do know is that there will be changes. Seamie Harnedy should return to the attack, Rob Downey to the defence and perhaps one or two more as well as numerous positional switches.
Clare have momentum now and while Cork won the league encounter, that result will be absolutely meaningless when the ball is thrown in.
We saw last Sunday how the great start that Clare had influenced the game, three first-half goals. Cork must certainly not allow that. Then there’s Tony Kelly. He was not at his brilliant best but he still ended up with 1-7, two fine points from play and a brilliantly executed penalty.
Limerick, Waterford and Tipp have the weekend off so all the focus is on this showdown. Clare are in a much better place because they have two points on the board and two home games to come.
Not exactly a rosy picture but we all know now and to repeat, things can change very quickly from one week to the next as Tipperary found out to their cost. After a very positive start in Walsh Park, admittedly ending in defeat, there was a lot more optimism about them facing the Banner. But the Premier are now very much on the back foot.
Cork must ensure that they don’t join them in that very precarious position.
Cork have had a two-week break, an opportunity to reflect and to have a good, hard look at themselves in the aftermath of that damaging loss to Limerick.
In this Munster championship, it’s all about taking on board the learnings from a loss. Both on and off the field, if that happens Cork’s summer’s reinvention can begin but at the same time, the task awaiting is pretty big.
All the TV eyes will, of course, be focused on the Galway-Kilkenny showdown at Pearse Stadium, Cody-Shefflin in a major championship encounter.
It’s a fascinating prospect for the hurling world, the greatest manager against one of the game’s greatest ever hurlers In so many ways this could be a defining day in both provinces.