Patrick Horgan after the epic Munster Hurling Senior Championship win over Limerick at SuperValu Páirc Ui Chaoimh. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Massive weekend for Cork teams

What a difference a week can make! After the loss to Clare, the hurlers’ season looked over, now they are back in the mix and ever so slightly in control of their own destiny.

Big games are also coming up for John Cleary’s men, the under 20 hurlers and there are Munster finals in camogie and ladies football too.

Sam Maguire Cup

Cork v Clare on Saturday in Cusack Park Ennis at 6pm

9 April 2023 is a date John Cleary, his players and management team won’t forget in a hurry as Clare with a late point ended Cork’s Munster Championship campaign and for a while threatened to keep us out of the Sam Maguire Cup, but it all worked out okay in the end.

Cork know exactly what they are facing into on Saturday against a team that played well against Kerry, without ever looking like they were going to win.

John knows it’s an “extremely” tough place to go. “We always find it hard to win up there, but look that’s the nature of the championship we are in, and we are looking forward to it.”

Many see this as the game that will decide whether Cork or Clare get the 3rd spot with Donegal and Tyrone to come, similar to Cork v Louth last year.

Cork have had a 3 week break since the Kerry game. “It’s been good; obviously we would have preferred to be in the Munster Final but we had very good training sessions and they all went well got a lot of work done.”

As for the injuries, Luke Fahy is out, Rory Maguire could make it but Cathal O’Mahoney could feature later in the campaign.

The manager was also impressed with Clare in the Munster Final. “They played very well, created a couple of goal chances and have some very good players.”

In that game Stephen Ryan, Dermot Coughlan, Brian McNamara, Ciaran Downes, Daniel Walsh, Ikem Ugwueru and Emmet McMahon impressed and possess the potential to trouble Cork.

What Cork will need to do is get a grip early on and here midfielders Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan will have an important role to play, and hope they can stifle what is sure to be an early Clare onslaught.

Defensively Maurice Shanley, Kevin Flahive, Daniel O’Mahoney and Matty Taylor will need to keep the Clare attack in check.

In the loss to Kerry, there was an over reliance on Brian Hurley for scores 0-8 out of 1-12. The captain will need better support from Paul Walsh, Chris Óg Jones and Conor Corbett, while Sean Powter now free from his heavy exam schedule will offer a lot more as well.

Clare playing so well against Kerry might actually suit Cork as it will rid them of any degree of complacency they might have had.

It could well shape the rest of the campaign for John Cleary’s men and on the basis that they are a better equipped than they were 12 months ago should win.

The match is live on C103.

Munster Hurling Championship

Cork v Tipperary on Sunday in Semple Stadium Thurles at 4pm

“It will be worth nought if we don’t back it up on Sunday against Tipperary,” said Cork manager Pat Ryan deep in the bowels of SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh after the dramatic win over Limerick.

This was close on 9pm and the stadium was just about calming down and as long as I am going to games I don’t think I have ever experienced such an atmosphere and Pat was of the same view.

“The support we got from the off was incredible and it just shows what hurling means to Cork people and I know they will travel in strength again on Sunday.”

“Tremendous character shown by our lads, they never gave up and kept battling away and for once the small bit of luck that we need came our way.”

On the penalty by Hoggie: “Ah sure look how long has he been doing that and long may he continue to do so.”

Tipperary presents another huge test: “They are playing at home, although we enjoy going there as well, they showed there resolve by getting a draw against Waterford when it looked all over, and they are still in there fighting to keep their season alive.”

“Look we’ll enjoy tonight, get back at a recovery in the morning (Sunday) and train next week and I have no doubt we will be ready for it.”

Having looked dead and buried in Walsh Park, Tipperary will be encouraged by the manner in which they salvaged a draw and the two week break, as against a 7 day turnaround for Cork, will also suit them.

Getting a draw was also commendable given the scale of the drubbing, and the performance or lack of one they produced against Limerick a week earlier.

Noel McGrath, Cathal Barrett, Jake Morris, Seamus Kennedy, Mark Kehoe and Jason Forde are all quality players and will relish playing Cork in Thurles.

Will last Saturday’s win become a turning point for this Cork team? They will be buoyed by the victory, but as Pat said, it’s only 2 points; there’s a lot at stake on Sunday and even now on the back of beating Limerick, the expectations are higher.

The starting 15 is unlikely to change, with the expectation that Ciarán Joyce won’t be fit, Robert Downey who was outstanding last week will retain the number 6 jersey and despite his early withdrawal, his brother Eoin will be at full-back.

Niall O’Leary was also excellent and Mark Coleman will be sharper with more game time, while Patrick Collins will be pleased with his display.

Darragh Fitzgibbon and Ethan Twomey are developing into a very solid midfield pairing, while the attack with pace and power can cause any defence problems, even one as good as Limerick’s.

The impact off the bench was also important and again could be a factor.

It’s a massive game for both, a Cork win and they are well in the hunt for progressing from the group, especially if Clare beat Waterford in the 2pm game in Ennis.

For Tipp defeat means their season is at an end with a game to spare.

I did not think Cork would beat Limerick, but on the evidence of that win, I expect to win this one and keep their ambitions alive for another week at least, while the final round of games are played on Sunday 26, Tipperary v Clare in Thurles and Limerick with home advantage v Waterford.

As always the match is live on C103.

Munster Under 20 hurling semi-final

Cork v Clare on Friday in Cusack Park Ennis at 7.30pm

When these sides met in the round-robin phase, Clare looked well in control early on as they led by 7 points, and had a free to go 8 ahead, when indiscipline on the sideline and by a player who was subsequently sent-off changed the direction of the contest.

Cork eventually ran out winners and secured a semi-final spot, but the inconsistency that was evident in their games surfaced again in the last group game against Tipperary who ran out comfortable winners, who now await the winners in the final.

Clare were very impressive in that game played on Leeside and with their minors and seniors all going well, they will be determined to maintain that winning sequence against Cork.

Conor Whelan, James Hegarty, Sean Rynne, Jack O’Neill, Michael Collins and Ronan Kilroy all made important contributions and the view among many was that had the sideline incident not occurred, they would have won such was their dominance.

Did Cork, knowing they had a semi-final secured, take their foot off the pedal in Thurles or was it a case of the flaws of the earlier games being exposed?

Probably a combination of both and maybe now with it being knockout, the focus will be much better, because there is no doubt there’s lots of quality within the group.

Paudie O’Sullivan is an excellent goalkeeper, Kevin Lyons, Darragh O’Sullivan and James Dwyer are good in defence.

Jack Leahy and especially William Buckley have been the best of the attack, while Adam O’Sullivan has looked dangerous when introduced and could and probably should start.

Cork went unbeaten throughout last season’s campaign. If they are to retain their titles, they will have to repeat that from here on and they are well capable of winning but it needs a full on performance from the off.

Munster Ladies Football Final

Cork v Kerry in Mallow on Saturday at 4pm

Cork are the holders of this championship having beaten Kerry in last year’s decider.

Since then though the fortunes of both counties have gone in different directions.

Kerry are on an upward trajectory while Cork struggled in the league and were eventually relegated.

They did lose a good few players to retirement and injury and that they have made the final might suggest they are finding their form at just the right time.

In the group phase they did lose to Kerry, as they did in the league, but dug out wins over Waterford and Tipp to secure their place in the final.

The win over Tipp was very pleasing considering they had long periods without scores and actually fell behind in the 60th minute, but showed great resolve to hit the last two points.

Katie Quire - how good to see her back after injury - levelled with her 8th point, while Sabdh McGoldrick showed great composure to hit the winner.

Kerry will present a much tougher test and with the quality and experience they have they might just edge this one.

In the B Final at 2pm, it’s Cork v Limerick. Cork won their meeting in the group phase by 1-17 to 1-16, but knowing they were going to contest the final a bit of shadow boxing went on, so hard to call this one.

Munster Senior Camogie Final

Cork v Waterford on Sunday in Thurles at 2pm

A 2nd meeting between the teams in a matter of months, following on from the league encounter in which Cork won a dour contest early in the season.

Waterford caused a major surprise by beating newly crowned league champions Tipperary in the semi-final and it was a well deserved victory also.

That will give Jerry Wallis and his management team a huge boost heading into this game and with the All-Ireland starting a week later, both sides will be looking for momentum going into the main championship of the season.

Cork were easy winners over Clare in their semi-final even if, as Ger Manley pointed out, they didn’t play as well as he would have wished for, but they were coming off the back of a heavy block of training and that might have been a factor.

Laura Tracey missed that game and might not be risked on Sunday, Libby Coppinger picked up an injury with the Cork ladies football team and could be a doubt, Pamela Mackey made her first start of the season while Saoirse McCarthy, Amy O’Connor, Meabh Cahalane and Laura Hayes should all feature.

Beth Carton remains the key player for Waterford and if Cork can keep a tight rein on her, they should avenge last season’s defeat in the championship and pick up their first and hopefully not last bit of silverware of the year.