Patrick Horgan is tackled by Rory Hayes of Clare during the Munster Hurling Championship match at SuperValu Páirc Ui Chaoimh. Cork lost narrowly by Horgan scored 2-10. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Season defining game for hurlers against champions

It’s still only the middle of May and Pat Ryan’s season and that of his team could very well be over come Saturday night. Okay there’s a game v Tipperary a week later but that could very well be a dead rubber, from a Cork perspective.

There’s big games also for the minor hurlers and footballers, coming on the back of a few disappointing results.

Munster Senior Hurling Championship

Cork v Limerick at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday at 7pm

When you have lost your opening 2 championship games - narrowly it must be said - the last thing you want is a meeting with the champions in your 3rd game in an effort to keep your season alive.

Or is it the exact type of game you want to get back on track?

Limerick are unbeaten and the manner in which they saw off Tipperary last time out was a clear signal that they are, as if we didn’t know it already, the team to beat in Munster and beyond.

The only downside was the injury to Peter Casey and we wish him the best in his recovery.

Tipp’s response to that heavy defeat was to produce a battling performance in Walsh Park against Waterford and the draw apart from keeping their season alive, also helped Cork, as a win for the home side would have almost certainly ended Cork’s chances of making it out of the province.

The other noteworthy feature of that game was for the 2nd week in a row, James Owen’s dreadful performance; blatant fouls ignored where in the previous weeks similar fouls were punished and some with yellow cards.

His movement for the Waterford goal from the early penalty was the most bizarre thing I have seen in a big game in a long time. It warranted a re-take.

Similarly Saturday night’s referee Sean Stack didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in the Wexford v Galway game and that after a disastrous All-Ireland Club Final, let’s hope he’s not a central character this weekend.

After the loss to Clare, Pat Ryan was naturally very disappointed. “Of course we did play a lot better but again left a few goal chances behind us, but look we are still in this championship; we will regroup and go again.”

Pat also pointed to Clare’s response to going 7 points behind. “That was the key, they are a very good team, and while we came at them again, the sending-off was a big moment.”

Pat was also critical of a number of calls that went against them. “That’s the 2nd game in a row we have had a player sent-off and people say we are not a dirty team, while we had a man down injured, no stoppage in play by the referee and we concede 1-1. That to me is baffling.”

As for the visit of Limerick, their game v Tipperary hadn’t started when he spoke to the media. “Obviously it’s a huge game against a great team, but we played very well against them last year in the Gaelic Grounds. They are coming down to our home patch, we can cower down to them or stand up to them and we will work very hard over the next two weeks to get it right.”

The composition of the starting 15 will be interesting, having made 6 changes for the last game, and to a large degree they worked, they will hardly be as drastic this time round.

Goalkeeper Patrick Collins has come under the spotlight, but to pitch Brion Saunderson into a match of this significance might be a bit unfair on the young Midleton custodian - unlikely to happen, but then again who would have said that they would have been so radical for the Clare game?

Defensively conceding 3 goals will also be a concern, Tim O’Mahoney struggled for long periods on Peter Duggan and there might a change there, with Ger Mellerick coming into the equation.

Ethan Twomey on his debut did reasonably well, but maybe Mark Coleman or Tommy O’Connell might be an option this time around.

Patrick Horgan, not for the first time, was the key player in attack, 2-10 is some return, the goals were quality and he was also fouled for a number of his points and he also nailed 2 65s.

The rest of the attack only functioned in patches. Alan Connolly again didn’t get enough of a supply, Shane Barrett threatened, Declan Dalton hit a couple of long range points, but as Pat Ryan said, the failure to convert the goal chances created proved costly.

Some day that will happen, will it be on Saturday, hopefully.

Then again will a team with the quality Limerick have, give you those chances - unlikely.

Hayes, Byrnes, Lynch, Gillane, Quaid, Morrissey and Hegarty are vastly experienced and with 2 wins from 2 they will want to and are determined to maintain their unbeaten run, a win on Saturday would guarantee them a place in the Munster Final.

One other factor Cork is that haven’t beaten Limerick in the championship since 2019 under John Meyler and that was in the Gaelic Grounds. Can they reverse that trend? All the signs say no they cannot; based on current form it’s hard to argue against that.

Let’s hope they can produce a result that will keep the season alive, if not it’s going to a long summer, watching on, again.

The match is live on C103.

Minor Hurling Championship

Cork v Clare at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh tonight at 7pm

Having recovered from a 1st round loss, Cork have shown considerable improvement in their subsequent wins over Waterford and Limerick and entering this game they are still with a chance of making the final - a win might be good enough to do just that.

Equally Clare themselves have been very impressive and the manner in which they beat Tipperary in Thurles would suggest this is going to be another tough test for Cork.

Clare are the reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions and will be determined to maintain their unbeaten run.

In the win over Tipperary they bagged 4 goals with Liam Murphy getting 3 and Colm Ralph the fourth, while others to impress were Paul Rodgers, Harry Doherty, James Cullinan and Dara Kennedy.

Cork will hope playing at home will give them an edge and if they can contain the Clare goal threat, they might just spring what many would consider a surprise win.

Josh Goulding has been excellent in goal with Rian O’Riordan, Kevin Beechinor and Liam Kelleher solid in their defending.

Oisin O’Connell and Jake Hegarty are a hard working midfield while the attack has benefitted from quality ball been delivered their way.

Mark O’Brien has been the key man with great points from and placed ball, while Michael Tadgh Brosnan’s roaming role has been crucial as has been his distribution it led to goals in all 3 games, he too is well able to pick off a score.

Adam Lee and Luke Murphy have also made important contributions.

The prize of a Munster Final is on offer, and Cork are well capable of getting there, if not they will then play in the Preliminary All-Ireland QF against Leinster opposition, but John Meyler and his team will not want to go down that route.

Munster Minor Football Final

Cork v Kerry at Páirc Uí Rinn on Monday at 7.30pm

What a difference a week can make to a team and the benefit of a championship game was very evident in Quilty on Tuesday last as Cork eased to victory over a Clare side playing their 5th championship game.

1-7 in 60 minutes against Kerry, this total was tallied by half-time and while they slacked off a bit in the 2nd half, the outcome was never in doubt.

The fact Clare had been reduced to 14 men did not help Cork as they knew there and then they were not going to be beaten.

Cork made 4 changes to the named team and they worked and all those that started justified their selection.

Equally Kerry despite been level early in the 2nd half with Tipperary racked up an impressive 2-19 again showing the value of a championship game under their belts.

In fact when they played Cork in the QF, anytime their lead was threatened they moved up a gear and while there was only 2 points in it at the end, they were always comfortable.

There is a nice balance to this Kerry side, Michael Lynch, Gavin O’Keeffe and Fionan Ryan were good in defence and in midfield Ben Murphy and Killian Dennehy have the capacity to dominate.

As with most Kerry teams they have quality forwards, Joey McCarthy, Gearoid White and Jack Joy among them.

Both sides will have learned a bit from their QF probably content in the knowledge that like the U20s, they were always likely to cross swords again with a bit more at stake.

Now who will have learned more could decide the outcome of the final.

One thing we do know is that if the Kerry defence are as good as they were in Tralee, or maybe the Cork attack was poor on the night, 1-7 would suggest that, the Kingdom will prevail.

Cork though have very good players. James O’Flaherty was confident in goal, Joe Mouret, Oisin Harrington, Cathal McCarthy and Niall O’Shea are competent defenders.

Harry Cogan and Ben O’Shea were outplayed in Tralee, were much better in Quilty, they will at the very least want to break even if Cork are to win. Danny Miskella, Sean Whelton, Ben Delaney and Dylan O’Neill (0-6 in the win over Clare), will be keen to maintain the momentum they showed in the semi-final.

Kerry are the champions and will probably start as favourites, but I have a fancy for Cork to win.