AFTER last week’s exciting games and the results that followed, we are back to knockout Sunday again.
This means for Cork, Waterford, and Tipperary, two out of those three will be out of the championship.
Limerick and Clare are safely through to the Munster final, and I would say, are not too bothered about anything else.
Waterford travel to Ennis to take on Clare, and the big question here is, what kind of a team will Clare put out?
I’m sure Brian Lohan and his management team are thinking, or maybe not thinking too much about that situation.
Nevertheless, it is always nice to keep the winning mentality going, even when it doesn’t really matter.
I think Clare will rest some of their players on Sunday to recharge the batteries for the Munster final in a couple of weeks and no one could blame them if they do that.
I’m sure all of their concentration is on getting ready for that big game, with the focus on Limerick.
That is why Waterford should be in a good position in this game but even if they win there is no guarantee of getting through. I would say, entirely their own fault.
It’s a different scenario in Thurles, all the talk last week in a lot of places, but especially in Cork and Tipperary, was could this game be a dead rubber?
It is far from that now, with both teams still in the hunt, and Tipperary can thank Cork for that with their victory over Waterford, giving Tipp a lifeline.
However, Cork are in the driving seat. They are in command of their own destiny and I think that is a great way to go into any game. It does not matter what happens anywhere else if Cork win this game.
But as we know from past experiences it is never as simple as that, especially in a game of championship hurling, and particularly between old rivals and enemies like Tipp and Cork.
No love lost between these two while that game is on. Both have the strongest of traditions and are two very proud counties.
Tipperary played very well against Limerick the last time and could and should have got something from that game — they hurled very well and were in a good position to win only for a late rally by Limerick to pip them.
Can Tipperary lift it again?
Knowing Tipp they will relish the chance of playing in front of their own supporters, and especially against Cork.
I’m sure they would like nothing better than putting one over the old enemy, and with leaders like Ronan Maher, and especially Noel McGrath, they will not be easily beaten, with that slim chance of prolonging their summer when it looked dead and buried a week ago.
They are the only team in Munster that have yet to win a game this year. They will want to change that.
Kieran Kingston has to be in a good frame of mind after last weekend with the way his team performed.
A big change from the previous few weeks when all around him was negativity and he could do nothing right.
It is amazing what a win can do and now he can do nothing wrong according to the supporters, the same supporters that did not travel to Waterford last weekend, so Kieran I would say to you, take their criticism and praise with a pinch of salt.
What team will Cork put out this week?
Will they go with the team that started last week, or the team that finished?
Kieran made some hard calls last weekend, and rightly so in my opinion. Will he start Patrick Horgan or leave him on the bench?
A big call either way, but I believe that Patrick has lost form and sometimes it is hard to get that back in the space of a week.
Will he start his son Shane? Another big call.
I believe Shane is better coming on; he is a better impact sub and there are some players like that.
Will the form of some of his players from last weekend hold up? Guys like Robert Downey, Ciaran Joyce, and especially midfielders Luke Meade and Darragh Fitzgibbon, backed up by Seamus Harnedy and young Alan Connolly.
They were the big leaders for Cork last week and leadership will be required on Sunday because the expectation will be there as well. Conor Lehane is showing form as well and is also a good free-taker.
Will Tim O’Mahony start in the forwards? I believe he should, he is rangy, his skill level is very good, and he can score. I believe he would be a big asset to Cork at full-forward.
Cork will need all these guys playing to the top of their game.
Consistency has been a problem for Cork. Players do not seem to keep their form from game to game. They need it here and should not change too much from last Sunday.
After all, it is still do-or-die for them.
I believe their confidence should be up, and I take them to get the result they need to keep them in the championship.