Huge week of action ahead
It began on Monday night with a brilliant win in Limerick, and it continues until Sunday with the senior hurlers playing Clare in what could be a season-defining game in Ennis.
Before that, both minor teams will be in action and the curtain raiser in Ennis is the Munster Intermediate Camogie Final with Cork facing Kerry.
Munster Senior Hurling Championship
Cork v Clare on Sunday in Cusack Park Ennis at 2pm
A huge game for both teams as the Munster Championship continues to be the jewel in the crown, and a lot is at stake for both teams.
It’s Clare’s last game and if they lose, their destiny could be out of their hands; for Cork their final game is away to Limerick and that could be challenging, win here and they are assured of progressing in the championship.
After the drama of the Tipperary game, Manager Pat Ryan was fulsome in his praise for the effort the players put in.
“I thought they were excellent for long periods of the game. We were being outplayed but as they have done all year, they dug in and got what could prove to be a vital point.”
Goals have played an important part for this team all season and Pat was pleased that trend was maintained. “It is something we encourage at training and with a bit of luck we could have had a couple more, but at the other end we will be disappointed at the couple we conceded.”
As for Clare in Ennis, Pat knows it’s going to be another tough test. “It’s never easy in Ennis and Clare are coming in on the back of two great wins, especially after beating Limerick, so they will be confident of maintaining their winning run.”
For all that, Pat is looking forward to the game: “We know it’s going be an intimidating atmosphere and the tight confines of the venue will make it a challenge but that is what the Munster Championship is all about, but I have belief in the group and hopefully we can get the result we need.”
Pat also made the point that the win by the Under 20 hurlers on Monday was also important. “Big win as it would have given Clare more momentum so well done to the lads, it was a great result.”
Cork will be without the injured and unfortunate Robbie O’Flynn and his pace and power will be missed, on the plus side Sean O’Donoghue could be set to start his first game since the league opener against Limerick.
Aidan McCarthy also looks like he will miss out for Clare, but they have coped without him and with Ian Galvin, Shane O’Donnell, Cathal Malone and of course Tony Kelly they have enough in attack to test the Cork defence.
Eibhear Qulligan is a quality goalkeeper while John Conlon, Conor Cleary and David McInerney have impressed in recent outings.
The composition of the Cork starting 15 may not differ too much from the Tipperary game, especially from 1 to 7, as they have been very effective particularly Damien Cahalane, Ciaran Joyce, Robert Downey and Niall O’Leary.
Luke Meade impressed when introduced and his experience and work rate could be invaluable.
Shane Kingston could get the nod in place of O’Flynn, while as ever Patrick Horgan, Declan Dalton, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Seamus Harnedy will bring their own qualities to the team.
The bench has proved invaluable all season and the impact has been impressive, look at what Brian Hayes and Conor Lehane did when introduced - add in Padraig Power and Conor Cahalane and the options are very good.
Clare will rightly start as favourites especially having beaten Limerick and then easily disposing of Waterford and of course playing at home will help, even if they did concede 5 goals to Tipperary in their only home game to date.
That said Cork have only lost one game all season and in several of them have displayed remarkable resilience, refusing to accept defeat, an excellent trait in the group.
The two week break will also help. Preparation has been very good including a very productive session in the Gold Coast last Sunday.
The key to the outcome could very well be goals, can Cork repeat the tricks they produced against Tipperary - if they can they will be hard to beat?
What also could be crucial is a consistent 70 plus minutes, unlike the stop start nature of the last outing, get a good start and not allow Clare build momentum which would quieten the home crowd.
It has the makings of a cracking and intriguing encounter, but Cork to shade it and in the process ensure their season will head into June.
The match is live on C103.
Munster Minor Football Semi-Final
Cork v Tipperary in Thurles on Thursday at 7pm
Much has been made of the format of the underage football competitions in Munster in comparison to hurling and indeed the other provinces.
Under 20 football is straight knock-out and while the minor is round-robin for 4 counties, Cork and Kerry are only guaranteed 2 games and the reward for winning one is an away semi-final against a team playing its 5th match.
Yes it is the duty of the provinces to encourage football in the weaker counties, but has it made any difference? Not really, the duty is within these counties themselves to ensure football is treated equally, which in some cases it might not be.
Cork following their impressive win over Kerry, even if there was a bit of shadow boxing going on, head to Thurles confident that they can make it to the final.
Manager Ray O’Mahoney was delighted with the win. “Well it been our first championship match, the same as Kerry to be fair; we did not know what to expect but we played well, made a few errors but overall happy to win.”
The focus now switches to Tipp: “They are a good side and while they lost tonight, playing at home will help them, and it will be their 5th game, but we will get back into training, review this game and then plan for Tipperary.”
Cork played good attacking football in the win and while they lost their way for a period in the 2nd half, they finished strongly to earn a deserved win.
There is a solid look to the team, starting with goalkeeper Billy Curtin with excellent defenders in Matthew Ahern, Gearoid Daly and Odhran Foley.
The midfield pairing of Mark Hetherington and Darragh Clifford were dominant for periods while the attack delivered with good quality ball.
In particular centre-forward Dara Sheedy and full-forward Sean Coakley with Denis O’Mullane and Garry Holland offering excellent support.
Cork should have too much for Tipperary and the expectation is that they will meet old rivals Kerry in the final, and what that will do is guarantee them at the very least an All-Ireland QF spot, and also a crack at making it 3 in a row of Munster titles.
Munster Minor Hurling Semi-Final
Cork v Galway in Thurles on Saturday at 3pm
Having lost to a very good Clare team in the Munster Final, coming on the back of a difficult week for the team, Cork have now the tough task of beating a highly rated Galway side who were comfortable winners in Leinster.
Manager Kieran Murphy admitted as much in the aftermath of the Munster Final loss: “It was a tough week but on the night we have no complaints, Clare were the better side and now we just have to get back on the horse and prepare for the semi-final.”
Kieran is glad of the opportunity: “Obviously we would prefer to go in as champions but at least it’s another game and while we know Galway are a good team but it’s a once off and we will give it our best shot.”
Cork were a bit over dependent on Darragh Walsh for scores, he bagged 0-9 and if they are to win this game he will need a bit more support and the form shown by Jayden Casey when introduced might see the Youghal lad start.
Zack Biggane and Barry O’Flynn are also capable of getting scores, while Conor McCarthy, Ben Walsh if fit, Cillian O’Callaghan and Darragh McCarthy all have had excellent campaigns and will need to be at their best if they are to cause an upset. Galway are firm favourites for the All-Ireland title and look well capable of justifying that tag.
The match is live on C103.
Munster Intermediate Camogie Final
Cork v Kerry in Ennis on Sunday at 12pm
It’s a very early start for these girls as Cork bid not only to retain a title they won impressively last year, but also to add it to the league success of a couple weeks back.
Kerry camogie has improved immeasurably in the last number of years built around a successful Clanmaurice team who supply practically the entire starting 15, and were recently crowned Division 2A League champions and they will fancy their chances of avenging the defeat to Cork in last year’s final.
In the league final, Kerry got the better of Meath with Jackie Horgan, Aoife Fitzgerald, Patrice Diggin and Aoife Behan key players for the Kingdom ladies.
Cork had a very good league campaign going through unbeaten and while the final against Kilkenny went to a replay after a poor drawn encounter, they were much improved the 2nd day and were comfortable winners.
There is a nice balance to this team, while the defence is excellent as they showed in both games against Kilkenny.
Leanne O’Sullivan, Niamh O’Leary and Meabh Ring were rock solid and laid the foundations for the win that was copperfastened by Rachel Harty, Fiona Nelligan, Lauren Homan and Cliona O’Leary. Difficult to predict a winner but hopefully Cork can get the afternoon in Ennis off to a winning start.