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Game On

Munster Final spot on offer for hurlers

Thursday, 15th June, 2017 9:29am

It's another huge game for a Cork team that proved us all wrong with a brilliant display in beating the All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the last round.

The quality of that game was exceptional but do not expect Sunday’s encounter to match it, as Waterford will present an entirely different challenge to Cork; who will undoubtedly benefit from having a championship game under their belts.

Derek McGrath is a shrewd manager and having watched Cork first-hand in Thurles, he will have his team prepared accordingly but will also be conscious that this is his side’s first competitive outing since their league campaign concluded.

It is well documented that Waterford trained very hard during the league. Word was they were content to survive in Division 1 and spent the spring months working on various systems to be unveiled in the championship – Sunday will show us what that will be.

Cork were excellent in the win over Tipperary. The question now is can they repeat that performance? That has been their problem in the last number of years, inconsistency in trying to put good displays back-to-back, but it would be nice to start this weekend.

A feature of the last day was Cork’s ability to respond to a Tipp score. Even when they conceded the goal, Cork got the next two points, thereby not allowing the champions to build any momentum and a similar performance would put Cork in a strong position.

Waterford, though, will set themselves up as they have done in the past, plenty of players behind the ball and then work it through the channels. It has proved beneficial in the past; apart from the Munster Final last year when, ironically, Tipperary ripped them apart.

Cork will have planned for this eventuality and trained accordingly – I assume – and how they cope will shape the outcome of the contest.

In terms of development, Waterford are much further down the road, more experienced and have been one of the top teams in recent years but, as a team, they need to win a major title.

Austin Gleeson, Noel Connors, Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, Maurice Shanahan, Pat Curran, Pauric Mahony and Conor Gleeson are battle-hardened and will be keen to get back to a Munster Final and erase the memory of last year’s hammering, although they will miss the influence of Tom Divine, who has opted to go travelling for the summer.

The expectation levels on Leeside have risen considerably since the win over Tipperary and that brings its own pressure, particularly on the newcomers – all of whom were excellent last time out – so Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade, Mark Coleman, Colm Spillane and Shane Kingston will be marked men.

Cork’s experienced players also delivered big time, Stephen McDonnell, Mark Ellis and Damien Cahalane gave top class displays. Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Horgan and Conor Lehane, who is expected to be fit, were all in top form but will they get the space and freedom to be as effective again?

Waterford have had the edge over Cork in recent years, the league win in Walsh Park back in March the exception. That win actually, in my opinion, helped turn Cork’s season around.

It’s a hard one to call, even on the back of the win over Tipperary, Waterford will be slight favourites but Cork are in a good position, trained well and are confident of making it to the final if they get a good start and manage to cope with whatever system Derek McGrath produces.

Everything went right for Cork against Tipperary, that might not be the case on Sunday, but they are well capable of winning. Close, but Cork to shade it.

Senior Football Championship

Five games, with a number in 2A, all bar one on Saturday night and it’s a round that could well be described as a free hit, although no team likes to lose, But if you do, this is the round to do it in.

Nemo Rangers and Bishopstown meet in Pairc Ui Rinn at 7.30pm and with the Cork players on both sides buoyed by reaching the Munster Final, it should be lively, with Nemo favoured to win.

Duhallow, even without Aidan Walsh, should be too strong for Seandun in Mallow at 8pm.

There’ll be a bit more at stake in the 2B games, Inchigeela at 7.30pm is the venue for the clash of Clyda Rovers and O’Donovan Rossa, and this has the makings of an interesting encounter. A nod to Rossa to win.

Muskerry and Clonakilty meet in Newcestown and again, a lively hour ahead. On paper, Muskerry have a very strong panel but they have never really delivered on their potential, and unless there at their best, they won’t win this one. That is assuming, of course, that Clonakilty have improved immeasurably since their very poor display in the first round heavy loss to Carbery Rangers, the reigning champions.

CIT and Dohenys meet in Newcestown on Monday night at 7.45pm and if the students, who really tested Castlehaven in Round 1, are at full strength; this a match they could win.

Elsewhere

Glen Rovers and Midleton meet in Intermediate Hurling on Friday at 7.30pm in Caherlag and while both have lost players to their respective senior sides, they can still produce a lively hour which Glen should shade, but it being a 2A clash, both will advance.

On Saturday, in Mallow, at 6.15pm Milford might be too strong for Ballymartle’s second team. Equally, in the Premier grade in Riverstown at 7.30pm Fermoy will be fancied to defeat Tracton and in football Castletownbere and Bantry Blues meet at 7.30pm in Adrigole. The presence of Ruairi Deane might edge the tie the way of the West Cork side.

A big night in Pairc Ui Rinn on Friday, with the Junior B Hurling semi-finals, with three of the four teams from the city. At 6.30pm Lough Rovers face White’s Cross and at 8pm it’s Rathpeacon vs Kilavullen.

Finally, a big game in Fitzgerald Stadium Killarney on Saturday at 6pm when Cork and Kerry meet in the Munster Ladies Football Championship.

Both have lost to Waterford in the round-robin series so this is effectively is a semi-final to determine Waterford’s opposition in the final.

Cork will need a big display if they are to make it to the final.

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