SIX will become four after things are sorted out in Thurles tomorrow afternoon where the two All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals will be played out.
Where both games are concerned, a resolution must be found on the day with replays now gone by the board.
Hopefully, in both encounters, there won’t be a need for a penalty shootout because that would be a disastrous way to conclude games of such magnitude.
The great hurling theatre in Tipperary should be jam-packed with Cork, Wexford and Clare supporters, in particular, travelling in big numbers. Maybe not so with Galway after their poor display in the Leinster final against Kilkenny.
Which brings us to their joust with Cork in the first of the two games and how they will react to that loss, all the more so when not nearly enough of their starting 15 didn’t perform to the level required.
There might have been only five points in it at the end but, overall, it was a very flat performance by Henry Shefflin’s team.
Offensively, they were largely dependent on Conor Whelan to carry the can and as a unit the Galway attack malfunctioned.
But that’s history now and given how lack-lustre they were and the momentum that Cork have gathered in their last three outings, Kieran Kingston’s team will probably will be slightly favoured tomorrow.
Cork certainly didn’t light any bush fires in Belfast last Saturday against Antrim but that’s the way it was always going to be, a no-win situation with the overriding priority of just getting the job done.
They did that and now comes an assignment that is almost certainly going to be a whole lot different.
Galway will have had a good, hard look at themselves and how they performed in the Leinster final loss and the expectation is that there will be a much more focused performance tomorrow.
In fact, down through the years that has been typical Galway, very poor performances followed by some blistering responses.
Consistency from one game to the next has been a problem so often and you just really don’t know what to expect from them.
Cork were well over them in the league encounter a few months ago at Páirc Uí Chaoimh but that game came in the aftermath of the very sad passing of Henry Shefflin’s brother Paul.
That game is absolutely of no relevance now and in the white heat of the championship league games rarely are.
Cork have resuscitated their season very well, from being on a life support machine in the aftermath of the losses to Limerick and Clare to being now just 70 minutes away from another trip to the big house in Dublin.
The team is more settled now, players operating in the positions that suits them best, particularly in defence and the scoring spread much greater too.
Conor Lehane has been outstanding, Seamus Harnedy likewise while Robbie O’Flynn’s confidence in his delivery and execution has been first class.
Ciaran Joyce continues to grow in stature in the centre of defence and Darragh Fitzgibbon is back hurling at his very best in the middle. Fair enough, the first half against Antrim was too patchy and some stern words were probably required at half-time to make them realise that they were in a game.
They certainly cannot be as off-colour again in the early sequences against a Galway team that contains some very fine hurlers and an attacking unit, that if it really clicks, can inflict some serious damage. Conor Cooney, Whelan, Cathal Mannion are three of those players.
Henry Shefflin’s managerial prowess will have come into play over the past fortnight in Salthill and he, more than anybody knows the importance of this game for both himself and the players under him.
Conor Cooney has not got the consistency of Joe Canning in his free taking but then again the latter was probably one of the best in this art of all time.
Galway created a few good goalscoring opportunities against Kilkenny but they weren’t taken but on another day they might be.
Cork’s confidence has to be high now and there is more competition for places on the starting team as well.
You could say that they are a reinvented team and they can continue to prove that tomorrow.
Galway don’t have to deal with all the shenanigans surrounding Shefflin and Brian Cody in the pre-match build-up to the Leinster final this time and that had to be a bit of a distraction.
The Cork starting 15 will be interesting.
Patrick Horgan is in reserve. The strongest case to be made in that regard is that you start your best 15 always and that’s why he should have gotten the nod.
Again, to repeat, you never know with Galway but Cork look to be the more settled unit now and a positive start should get them into an All-Ireland semi-final.
Clare have, in many ways, been the team of the season despite their Munster final loss to Limerick. They were not expected to get out of Munster initially but they have been a shining light in this championship season.
Much of that is down to the exceptional brilliance of Tony Kelly. His movement and ability to get out of tight corners and to subsequently deliver a score has been a joy to behold. How Wexford try to counteract him will have a big bearing in the second game tomorrow.
Clare certainly look to be a far more balanced unit than the Leinster team and contain more potency up front.
If they have got that epic Munster final loss to Limerick out of their system and that can’t have been easy, they should be good enough to do the business Thurles tomorrow, Croke Park a fortnight later, the hurling season has reached boiling point.