CORK manager Pat Ryan believes that his team will embrace the opportunity afforded them in Sunday’s do-or-die Munster SHC game with Limerick at TUS Gaelic Grounds (4pm).
While the Rebels have beaten the Shannonsiders in the Allianz Hurling League in the past two seasons, the last championship win against them came in 2019, with Limerick winning the three since then.
However, Ryan doesn’t think that the prospect of having to win in the All-Ireland champions’ backyard is something that will overawe Cork.
“I don’t think there’s any fear factor, to be honest,” he says.
“If you look at it, a lot of our players have beaten Limerick before and performed well.
“I think we’re well there in it – we’ve been performing well all year, our fellas are in good form, we’re fighting for every ball and that’ll have to be the same.
“From our point of view, we’re looking at it as a fantastic opportunity – to be honest with you, and being genuine about it, we’d have taken it if you’d asked us six or seven months ago.
“Going into the last game in Limerick and needing to win to get out, we’d have taken it. It is very competitive and we’ve a great opportunity on Sunday to go out and express ourselves.”
Cork and Limerick have identical records of a win against Waterford, draw with Tipperary and a one-point defeat against Clare.
Last Sunday’s loss at Cusack Park was one where Cork came back from eight points down to level in the second half before just falling short and there are lessons to be learned.
“Obviously, we’re creating an awful lot of goal chances so we need to be more efficient on that,” Ryan says.
“One thing that has happened against Tipperary and now Clare is that we’ve faded out of the second quarters and haven’t scored enough in those periods. Obviously, teams will get their purple patches – even if you only lose the second quarter by 1-8 to 0-5 or 0-6, they’re the areas we need to be improving.
“When we were dominant against Clare, they were still able to get five or six points in those quarters when we were getting 1-8 or 1-4 or 1-5. Obviously, we gave away a good few long-range scores and that’s something that Limerick do an awful lot so we need to be tightened up around there.
“We’re very proud of our fellas, the way they performed and the way they drove on, but we always knew that going to Ennis would be a huge task because Clare are going well and they’re a good team.
“Obviously, we’re going to Limerick now the next day and that’s going to be a huge task as well but it’s very exciting as well at the same time.”
Ultimately, it boils down to an opportunity to move on to the All-Ireland series with the game another test for a developing squad.
A win or a draw will give Cork third place in the round-robin while a Tipperary slip-up against Waterford could open up a route to the Munster final against Clare.
“These are the games that you want to be involved in,” Ryan says.
“There was 30,000 there against Waterford, 36-37,000 against Tipperary, 20,000 above in Clare – they’ve been great days for our fellas to test themselves and see where they’re at.
"There’s different areas around the hurling and maybe set-up and things like that that we need to get right and improve upon, but we’re very proud of the way the lads are playing for the jersey, which was key to us.
“We wanted to put in a consistent level of performance this year and I think we are putting in that but everybody knows that it’s the acid test for that now on Sunday.”