Sadhbh O’Leary of Cork is tackled by Martha Byrne of Dublin during the Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 1 Final match between Cork and Dublin at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Limerick are worthy favs but Cork can beat them

“We are ready, all our players are fit and available for selection and looking forward to the game.”

Kieran Kingston speaking ahead of Saturdays Munster Senior Hurling Championship semi-final in Thurles at 7pm, and it’s live on C103.

Reflecting on the league, Kieran said that “overall it went well, obviously disappointed with how the Galway game ended up, especially when at various stages we were in a winning position, but we learned a lot throughout the campaign and now it’s down to championship”.

On that point Kieran bemoaned the fact that the league final might not be played. “While we are not in it now, we could have been and it would have made for a better approach if there had been provision made for a final - one more game is all that it would have taken.”

Getting game time into players was also important, “especially the younger lads and to be fair they have all put their hand up for selection, which is what we wanted them to do.”

Kieran also pointed out that in 10 halves of hurling (five league games), “we lost just two, so that was pleasing”.

One of those lost was the first 35 minutes to Saturday’s opposition, when the power and pace of the champions literally blew Cork away.

“Yes that was an eye opener but then we knew Limerick would come at us strong that night as it was really their last big game before the championship, but to be fair we made a few changes at half-time and I thought our lads responded well.”

Limerick certainly laid down a marker that night and really pushed up on Cork, especially on the puck-outs and that put pressure on Cork’s game plan, they will probably do the same on Saturday and how Cork respond will shape the contest.

Kieran accepts that Limerick are firm favourites based on form and the depth in their squad. “There is no doubt about that, look at what they have won in the last couple of years, but that is the beauty of championship hurling and it will count for very little once the game gets underway.”

“Physically they are very strong and have key players all over the field but at the end of the day it’s 15 against 15, we have prepared well and are really looking forward to it.”

Kieran is also very happy with the level of preparation. “In comparison to last year when we had just 18 days, this year we have had no distractions, the same as everyone else really.”

Interestingly Cork have an excellent record against Limerick; not since the Munster Final of 2013 have they beaten Cork in a 70 minute game. 2018 was won after extra-time, while in 2019 a week

after a thumping by Tipperary in the first series of the round-robin games, Cork went and won comfortably a week later in the Gaelic Grounds.

Of course stats are just that stats, it’s what happens inside the white line that will count come 7pm Saturday night.

Limerick are strong in all areas of the field. Nicky Quaid fronts a solid defence in which Sean Finn, Richie English, Diarmuid Byrnes and Declan Hannon are quality defenders.

From midfield up they are very formidable, Cian Lynch can dominate any area he plays in with his intensity and work rate, Aaron Gillane, Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey have all delivered on the big day and will expect to do so again.

The composition of the Cork team will be interesting, although it’s fair to say that the starting 15 might not differ too much from that which started the final league game against Galway.

Patrick Collins will make his championship debut, while Sean O’Donoghue, Damien Cahalane, Tim O’Mahoney and Mark Coleman are certain to feature in defence, with Niall Cashman, Ger Mellerick, Robert Downey and Sean O’Leary Hayes also in contention.

Darragh Fitzgibbon looks set to start in midfield but who will partner him? Will it be Luke Meade for his workrate, or will they plump for Billy Hennessey or gamble on the experience of Bill Cooper who is lacking gamete - big call to be made here.

The attack will have a familiar look to it, I think. Patrick Horgan remains the key man, Shane Kingston, Seamus Harnedy, Robbie O’Flynn and Jack O’Connor should start with Alan Cadogan, Shane Barrett and Alan Connolly among the options.

One pleasing aspect to come from the league was the number of goals scored, even allowing for the fact that seven came against a poor Westmeath team, that’s a plus and the Limerick full-back line is slightly vulnerable.

It has the makings of a fascinating encounter; will Cork have learned enough from the league defeat a few weeks ago to upset the odds and in the process maintain their good record against John Kiely’s men?

Limerick have never done three in a row in Munster and with the Mick Mackey Cup now on offer for the champions, they will want to rectify that and take the first step by making the final.

In his pre-match press briefing John Kiely said the league meeting will have no relevance at all on Saturday, and is expecting “a really mobile, crisp, sharp unit which is what Cork always are in championship, and we will have to work extremely hard to get a result".

Limerick are the fancy of many not only to win on Saturday, but go the distance in both Munster and All-Ireland series, but first things first and while it’s hard to see them not winning, I for one would not be surprised if Cork turn the form book upside down and win.

Camogie double-header

The decision of the Munster Council to play the senior and intermediate finals as a double-header in Drom-Inch on Saturday is to be welcomed as it avoids a direct clash with the game in Thurles, especially with Cork involved in both.

First up at 12pm is the Intermediate decider against Tipperary - a repeat of the league game of a few weeks ago in which Cork won a tight contest.

Cork actually made the league semi-final, before losing to Down, and will look to this match as another step in preparation for their opening championship game on 24 July. Stephanie Beausang, Finola Neville, Katie Walsh, Ali Smith, Lauren Callanan and Rachel Harty all enjoyed good league campaigns and could pave the way for a Cork win.

It’s Cork v Limerick in the Senior final at 3.30pm and again with one eye on the championship, which for the seniors start on 10 July, momentum will be important. Cork played well in parts in their semi-final win over Tipperary, started very well with good fast and direct ball into their pacey attack and it paid dividends, Ciara O’Sullivan and Amy O’Connor profiting with great scores.

Tipperary battled back but Cork re-grouped and in the end were worthy winners, with Laura Treacy, Hannah Looney, Catriona Mackey, Libby Coppinger, Laura Hayes and Ashling Thompson all playing pivotal roles.

Limerick had wins over Clare and Waterford in reaching this final and have good players in Marian Quaid, Karen O’Leary, Sophie O’Callaghan and Caoimhe Lyons, but Cork look better equipped and should win.

On Sunday in the Under 16 ‘A’ All-Ireland Championship Quarter-Final, it’s Cork v Dublin in Nenagh at 2pm.

The draws for the County Senior Championship were held on Tuesday night and as usual some interesting pairings have emerged.

Eire Og v Glen Rovers, Inniscarra v St Finbarr’s, Imokilly v Ballygarvan, Douglas v Enniskeane, Muskerry v Carbery, Ballincollig v Courcey Rovers, Seandun v St Catherine’s, Cloughduv v Killeagh, are all second round ties. There is one first round game that features Sarsfields v Milford with the winners playing Newcestown in round 2.

These championships won’t commence until the inter-county season is complete.

County championships

There are a couple of Junior B games down for decision with Ballyhea v Belgooly in hurling while in football it’s Randal Og against Glengarriffe.

One very significant tie in intermediate hurling on Sunday. In Brinny at 3pm it’s an intermediate hurling relegation play-off between Argideen Rangers and Glen Rovers; the third team in this equation Meelin by virtue of their victory over Argideen last week have secured their status in this grade for the coming season.

Having drawn with Meelin earlier in the series, another draw will see Glen Rovers safe, and contrary to some reports the losers will not go to back down to Junior but to the Lower Intermediate grade.

There are also second round games in the County Premier Minor Hurling championship: at 12pm, it’s Na Piarsaigh v Blackrock, St Finbarrs v Bride Rovers, Carrigtwohill v Glen Rovers while at 2.30pm, it’s Midleton v Ballincollig with first named team enjoying home advantage.