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Pivotal weekend in Munster

Wednesday, 5th June, 2019 3:57pm

Rewind 12 months and Cork are on the cusp of qualifying for the Munster Final and Waterford out of the championship.

Saturday night is a similar situation for Waterford and for Cork it's a must win game to keep control of their own destiny.

This is a tricky game for Cork and a big week for the management to ensure the team are focused and not distracted by the fact that Waterford have nothing but pride to play for, which could make them dangerous opponents.

In the corresponding game last year, Waterford really tested Cork as they threw off the shackles and played with abandon and made Cork work for the win.

It is a bit different this time; last year it was well known it was going to be Derek McGrath’s last game - he stepped down the following day - so they wanted to go out on a high.

This time it is clear that there is a disconnect between players and management, and a lot of their key men look unfit and out of sorts.

Yet, there could be a kick in them.

Speaking last week, John Meyler was adamant Waterford’s situation was not a concern.“Our focus will be on ourselves and how we perform, we need to be as good and better then we were against Limerick.”

That win, and more importantly the display, pleased the manager. “Without a doubt, the response to the Tipp loss was perfect and I was delighted at the attitude and approach of everyone.”

Meyler was also fulsome in his praise for the players that were brought in. “Robert (Downey) was excellent for his first day out, while Mark (Ellis) did very well and Alan (Cadogan) showed what a loss he was last year.”

As for Conor Lehane the manager confirmed he looks good to go. “He’s training well and should be okay to start but we will keep an eye on him and make a call later in the week.”

John also made the point that it’s a panel game now and all 26 players named on the day will have a role to play: “You cannot rely on 15 anymore, injuries and other factors come into play, so everyone on and off the field must be aware of their responsibilities and to date they have.”

Cork will, in all probability, go with the team that did so well in the Gaelic Grounds; Cadogan and Stephen McDonnell could very well start and the options on the line remain strong, should matters go awry.

What of Waterford? Not too many players impressed in Walsh Park last week and the red card rules Pauric Mahony out and he is a loss.

There is still quality in the team, and with the likes of Austin Gleeson, Michael Walsh, Conor Prunty, Tadhg De Burca and Darragh Fives, they will want to record a win. Ironically the last championship game they won was the All-Ireland semi-final of 2017 against Cork, and for some this could be their last outing at this level.

Equally they have shipped severe criticism, from many quarters, since their capitulation last Sunday, only scoring 0-3 in the second half, they will want to answer those critics, especially from their own county.

Cork were very good in the win over Limerick; Niall O’Leary, Eoin Cadogan and Mark Coleman were rock solid in defence.

Bill Cooper and Daragh Fitzgibbon controlled midfield, while in attack Seamus Harnedy, Alan Cadogan and Patrick Horgan were in brilliant form.

If Cork produce the level they showed against Limerick, and I expect they will, there will only be one winner and that would set it up nicely for the final round of games a week later.

The second game of the weekend is the clash of Limerick and Clare in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday amid contrasting fortunes for both sides.

Clare were hammered by Tipperary in the so called fortress of Ennis and Limerick did a job on Waterford, so the losers here are in danger of missing out. By the quirk of the draw, should Limerick lose, they would be most vulnerable, particularly as they must travel to Thurles a week later to play unbeaten Tipperary, and knowing Liam Sheehy, he will want to keep it that way.

On the evidence of last Sunday Limerick should win but Clare hold no fears going to their neighbours and an interesting encounter looks to be on the cards.

Minor

There’s a similar situation for the minor hurlers from Waterford as they make the trip to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday at 5pm as their interest in the championship is at an end.

If Cork win, they can go a long way to making the final. Only two teams advance to the All-Ireland series, and Cork have a victory over Tipperary and a draw with Limerick last time out. In fact if Cork and Clare win their respective games this weekend, they will then contest the Munster Final, ahead of their final group game in Ennis on Sunday week.

Cork showed commendable character to earn a draw in Limerick when it looked as if they would lose a game they started very well in, but seemed to lose their way for long periods.

There is a strong spine to this Cork team which was very evident in the games to date, and in Jack Cahalane, Luke Horgan, Darragh Flynn, Cian McCarthy, Ciaran Joyce, Ethan Twomey and Brian Sanderson they have quality in the key positions to record their second win and remain on track to extend their season beyond June.

Both games for Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night will be broadcast live on C103.

General

Apart from the big games in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday it’s a huge weekend for underage hurling and camogie as the Feile Na Gael competition comes to town.

Clubs from all over the country will descend on Leeside for a feast of action in both codes and it usually produces some outstanding games.

It starts on Friday and continues on Saturday and will culminate with the finals in all grades on Sunday.

Best of luck to all involved and when the visiting teams depart our city and county on Sunday, they will take with them memories that will last a lifetime.

It’s been a good few weeks on the football front with a number of encouraging results, not least the impressive win over Limerick last week, even allowing for the paucity of the opposition, by the seniors last Saturday night to set up a Munster Final with Kerry in a few weeks time.

The minors will also face Kerry on a double-bill on 22 June.

This year the Under 20 Development League was introduced and Cork are playing in a group with the John Kerins Cup at stake, and they have made an encouraging start with draws against Kerry and Dublin.

In fact, having seen both games, I was very impressed by the fare the team produced and on Saturday they play Galway in Claughan where a win would keep them in contention before their final outing against Kildare next week.

A number of players have impressed, among them Colm Barrett, Blake Murphy, Mark Hodnett, Sean Meehan, Cathal O’Mahoney and Mark Cronin, and they might have enough in hand to get the better of Galway, but whatever the outcome the selectors will have learned a lot ahead of the upcoming Munster Championship.

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