Kerry’s Brian Ó Beaglaíoch competes with Colm O’Callaghan of Cork during the Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Cork and Kerry at Páirc Ui Rinn. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Can the hurlers salvage their season?

The picture in the round-robin phase of the Munster Senior Hurling C’ship is becoming clearer as the business end of the campaign nears its conclusion, but for Cork it’s hanging by a thread.

Two defeats means they must win on Sunday against a Waterford side that has had their measure recently. Elsewhere both camogie and Ladies Football teams are in Munster championship action while the minor footballers begin the defence of their title in Tralee.

Munster Senior Hurling Championship

Cork v Waterford in Walsh Park on Sunday at 2pm

“Very disappointed with the result as it means this takes our destiny out of our hands. While we have to win our next two games, we are dependent on results elsewhere.” Cork manager Kieran Kingston speaking after the loss to Clare in the last round. He also felt their start was “very nervous in light of some commentary after the Limerick game”.

Waterford manager Liam Cahill has called on the home supporters to turn up in big numbers. There is pressure on his side having lost to Limerick, and with a trip to Ennis on Sunday week, their final game could be a tricky one.

For Cork the stakes are much higher, two defeats and a poor display against Clare has heaped pressure on players and management; a third loss would end their season, meaning the trip to Thurles on Sunday week would be a dead rubber.

Cork can avoid that possibility by winning on Sunday, thus keeping their slim hopes alive for another week at least.

Cork’s record in Walsh Park is not great, but then Waterford’s style is more suited to a bigger pitch.

This is very good Waterford side, and Liam Cahill has a pretty good record against Cork. They’re balanced all over the field starting with a strong defence even though they will be without the injured Iarlaith Daly.

Jack Fagan, Conor Prunty and Tadgh De Burca are quality players, while in attack they have class in Austin Gleeson, Stephen Bennett, Dessie Hutchinson and Mickey Kiely.

Cork left themselves with a mountain to climb when falling well behind to Clare in the first half, in which the Banner men hit some lovely long range points having been afforded the time and space to do so by loose marking all over the field, surely the lessons will have been learned.

What will the starting 15 be though? Ger Mellerick looks like missing out with an injury, that might see a recall for Damien Cahalane, while Mark Keane’s late red card against Clare means he’s also out. The full-back line coped well in Thurles as did Ciaran Joyce but the starting midfield of Shane Barrett and Mark Coleman never really functioned, neither did the placing of Darragh Fitzgibbon on the 40.

The attacking unit was poor, Patrick Horgan despite a few uncharacteristic misses from placed balls was and still is a threat, Alan Connolly also looked dangerous when introduced, but an inconsistent performance overall was just not good enough.

What changes will be made? Alan Cadogan and Luke Meade would appear to have dropped down the pecking order, maybe now they might be worth a punt in this must win encounter.

Since the win over Kilkenny in the league semi-final, Cork have failed to deliver in their last 3 big games, and now more than ever a response and a performance is needed.

Much has also been made of the game plan, that is unlikely to change, but it’s clearly not working, would it be time now to throw caution to the wind, cast off the shackles and have a go, at this stage of the season they have very little to lose?

The other issue how is morale and confidence within the group on the back of recent results, Sunday will give us the answer.

Can they win? Of course they can but not unless there is considerable improvement all over the field, a consistent 70 plus minutes, anything less and Waterford will win, and effectively bring the curtain down on Cork’s season, just a short few months after contesting the All-Ireland Final.

As usual it’s live on C103.

Munster Minor Football semi-final

Cork v Kerry in Tralee on Thursday 12 May at 7pm

“It’s been a long wait since we started back in December but we have worked hard, given every player an opportunity and we are looking forward to heading to Tralee,” said Cork minor football manager Michael O’Brien ahead of tonight’s (Thursday) semi-final.

Well it’s a semi-final of sorts, as the winners go to the final, while the losers have one more opportunity to reach the final, with a game against Tipperary on Thursday 19 in Thurles.

Michael like his Kerry counterpart is critical of the format: “You look around at the other provinces they are all playing round-robin, while ourselves and Kerry are playing our very first game this week, and the losers then get to play Tipperary who will be playing their fifth game, doesn’t seem fair.”

That said, Michael is happy with their preparation. “We have played games against Galway, Dublin, Monaghan and others won some lost some, but overall we are pleased with where we are.”

Cork are champions, but going to Tralee makes it that bit harder. “It does but we had home advantage last year, so we knew all along we would be coming here so it’s a case of just get on with the job.”

Both sides have a few lads who played in last year’s game, but it’s hard to call especially with it being a first championship outing for both, but home advantage might just tip it Kerry’s way. Whatever the outcome, you would expect the losers will benefit from this game and be better prepared for the trip to Thurles next week, in fact it’s reasonable to assume that they could very well meet again in the final.

Camogie and Ladies Football

Both Cork teams are in Munster championship action over the weekend which once again will mean a busy period for dual stars Libbly Coppinger and Meabh Cahalane.

First up are the camogie team; they play Clare in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday with a 6pm start, a repeat of their league meeting played in horrendous weather conditions back in February in which Cork won, on a day when Davy Fitz was sent to the stand.

Clare surprised many when first drawing with and then deservedly beating a fancied Tipperary in the semi-final and that against a side that came within a controversial refereeing decision of making the league final.

The Clare team will look to Ciara Grogan, Chloe Morey, Susan Daly, Niamh O’Dea and Eimear Kelly to deny Cork a fourth successive Munster title.

Cork were really tested by Waterford in their semi-final and they got over the line despite playing with 14 for a long period after the experienced Laura Treacy was sent-off on a second yellow card, which allows her play in this game.

It will prove ideal preparation for both sides ahead of the upcoming All-Ireland Championship and with Amy Lee, Emma Murphy, Amy O’Connor, Chloe Sigerson, Ashling Thompson and Catriona Mackey showing good form, the odds favour Cork retaining their title, and adding the senior crown to the intermediate and minor provincial titles won by the county.

Less than 24 hours later, the Fraher Field Dungarvan at 2pm is the venue for the meeting of Cork and Waterford in the Senior Ladies Football semi-final, with Kerry awaiting the winners in the final. That will be the curtain-raiser to the Munster Football Final on Saturday 28 May in Killarney.

The timing of this game is strange with the hurling game up the road in Walsh Park, but to be fair it was complicated by the change of date for the camogie team, but a different time might have been better.

The sides met in the league game in MTU a few months ago and while Cork won, they got a tough game for the Deise girls who with home advantage might fancy winning this.

Cork of course will be without a few key players, notably outstanding defender Erika O’Shea who is heading to Australia for a stint in the AWFL, she will be a loss but goes with everyone’s best wishes for such a classy player.

The depth of the squad will be tested with a few others heading off on their travels, but with the likes of Martina O’Brien, Ashling Hutchins, Orla Finn and the quality that the Mourneabbey contingent bring to the panel, Cork should and probably will win.

Cork show mettle in defeat

The result was as many expected a Kerry win, but Cork were competitive for over 50 minutes but Kerry’s conditioning, greater experience and strength in depth told in the end.

Cork’s cause was not helped by again picking up injuries and best wishes to Kevin Flahive as his season is over, while goalkeeper Micheál Aodh Martin is rated doubtful for the qualifier on the June weekend, the draw for which takes place next week.

There were some excellent displays notably from Maurice Shanley, Ian Maguire and Sean Powter all rated doubtful before the game, debutants John Cooper and Rory Maguire played admirably, while Stephen Sherlock and Cathal O’Mahoney kicked quality points.

Kerry were deserving winners, but I felt that some of the frees they got were of the soft variety, while at the other end similar fouls on Cork lads were not penalised.

The trick now for Cork is to back up this performance and hopefully extend their season with another game or two, giving the panel confidence for what lies ahead.

Finally bouquets to all involved in ensuring that everything ran smoothly on the night, which produced a nice atmosphere, from a media perspective the arrangements were top class and in this regard my thanks to Ed Donnelly and Derek Connolly for their co-operation, it was much appreciated.