Tony Considine: Limerick are top dogs but All-Ireland title race is wide open

Cork are back in the hunt for Liam MacCarthy even if there are still question marks over their defence
Tony Considine: Limerick are top dogs but All-Ireland title race is wide open

Robert Downey of Cork in action against Michael Kiely of Waterford. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

WE have arrived with the final six who will contest this year’s All-Ireland championship.

With all due respect to Antrim and Kerry, they are not going to be contenders and everyone expected the three teams coming out of Leinster to be Galway, Kilkenny, and Wexford, so there were no great surprises there. While Limerick were not favourites to come out of Munster, they are also favourites for the All-Ireland title.

Cork were expected to come out of Munster as well, but a lot of the experts and pundits gave Clare no chance of qualifying. Not alone have they qualified, but they have reached the Munster final against old enemy Limerick.

Does it really matter anymore who wins the provincial championships? This is why I think that Cork and Wexford are in a really good position at the moment.

In Cork’s situation, they can watch Galway and Kilkenny taking lumps out of one another in the Leinster final, knowing well that they are playing the losers the following week. Is this time enough to recover from a defeat in a very intense provincial final?

There is massive rivalry between Galway and Kilkenny and, in my opinion, that suits a team that is waiting in the long grass to play the losers. Brian Cody and Henry Shefflin have added a lot of extra edge to this rivalry.

It is very hard to keep playing the same team and keep that intensity going, but no team will want to give an inch in this contest. There is also the big concern when the game is that intense and aggressive that there could be a lot of injuries picked up — injuries that you won’t recover from in a week.

Of course, red cards could come into play here as well, which means the losers could be without influential players the following week.

I believe this will be a fierce contest, no prisoners taken by either side — both have very competitive managers and there is no love lost between the two of them now, if we are to believe what we saw the last time they met.

Cork were lucky to get out of Munster but every team needs that bit of luck and Cork are no different. 

Séamus Harnedy fires a point against Tipp. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Séamus Harnedy fires a point against Tipp. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

However, I believe Kieran Kingston sees a right chance here now.

REBEL PROBLEMS

Are Cork coming good at the right time?

There are still a few problems in their team, namely in their defence.

While they have improved in the last two games, there is a lot more needed. I think the one big plus for Cork is that they have one of the more youthful teams left in this competition and they won’t have any fear of playing Galway or Kilkenny in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

Youth is very important, especially when there are a lot of games to be played. Galway and Kilkenny have some players that have a lot of mileage.

Can Cork take advantage of that? With pace in their team I believe they can.

They have changed their system since the start of this championship — that is why they are in this quarter-final.

If they went with the system they had against Limerick and Clare, they would not be in the championship now. Kingston and his management have to take credit for changing horses midstream — a brave thing to do — but they are getting their rewards.

Sometimes you can get bigger rewards for doing just that.

MUNSTER RIVALS

On the other side are Limerick and Clare, another intense rivalry and a huge game in the Munster final.

This will be even more intense than the Leinster final, with bragging rights very important around this side of the country.

Limerick always feel that they are better than Clare. I know they have no great time for Tipp or Cork, but I think they would rather be beaten by one of them than to go down to Clare.

There will not be any rolling over here from either side, no one backing down, it will be steel against steel. That always happens when neighbours meet.

Can that do damage to both teams here — especially to the losers who have to play Wexford the following week?

Limerick are on the road a long time now, almost six years, at a highly intense level. They have the titles to prove that but is the hunger still in them? That is the big question, because we know Clare will definitely have that hunger.

They have not won a Munster championship since 1998, when their now manager Brian Lohan was leading the charge. He is leading the charge in a very different way now but is still very effective.

Clare's manager Brian Lohan and Aron Shanagher. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Clare's manager Brian Lohan and Aron Shanagher. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

You can be sure of one thing; his team will be well up for this contest. Wexford will be looking on anxiously.

So you see there is quite a lot of hurling to be played. Maybe we need to see a few more games before we can come up with the winners of this year’s All-Ireland.

The big question is this: Will it be the back door or the front door the champions will come from?

In my opinion this All-Ireland title is still wide open. We will know more in a few weeks.

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