IT all boils down to this Sunday
Very fine margins in this Munster championship, especially in the Cork-Limerick game with both sides fighting for survival. They have identical records, each losing a game by one point, incidentally against Clare.
Limerick were favourites, not alone to come out of Munster but to win the All-Ireland as well. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen it coming down to their last game at home to stay in this championship. There is enormous pressure on them.
I can sense it even talking to some Limerick supporters and former county players. They are really worried about this game and having to get a result.
They definitely did not expect to be in this situation. Up to now some of their big players have not been anywhere near the form they had over the last couple of years.
Maybe other teams are catching up and have figured out how to take them on.
Limerick need to find another way if they can. Is hunger a big issue with them? After all they are on the road for six years. Are injuries catching up?
I believe it is a combination of both.
The one team that has suffered the most pain against Limerick has been Cork. I’m sure they have been reminded of that this week by Pat Ryan and his management.
Limerick have inflicted some very heavy defeats on Cork over the last few years, but as a Limerick man said to me the other day, “we suffered a lot more under Cork than they have from us over the years.”
I’m sure Cork would like nothing better than to come to Limerick’s own backyard and put them out. That is the war cry in Cork training this week I’m sure. Easier said than done.
A lot of things will have to go right for Cork. First and foremost I think Cork will have to be a lot smarter this week than they were last week against Clare. That starts with the Cork management and the message they have delivered to the players and the mistakes they made against Clare. They did make a few, both on the sideline and on the field.
Three of the Cork defenders were very good last week: Damian Cahalane, Ciaran Joyce and Robert Downey. That three showed great leadership and did everything in their power to lift Cork.
I think when Pat Ryan looks at his team from midfield up, he will see that they could have done a lot better.
This was very evident when I could see two Clare half-backs scoring six points between them from play. Cork cannot allow Limerick’s half-back line of Hannon, Byrnes and Hayes the same or they will be severely punished.
Courage is going to be very important in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday. Cork have to show that big time here. They have to hunt down Limerick at every opportunity, they have to get at Limerick early. They have to put a bit of doubt into them especially as Limerick are not going well at the moment.
I think Cork need a big following on Sunday especially knowing that the Limerick supporters will be there in force. Pat Ryan and his selectors must show courage as well in the team selection. There should be changes from the Clare game and I think there will be.
Cork should start guys like Shane Kingston, Shane Barrett, Eoin Downey and also leave guys like Declan Dalton on a bit longer than he was last Sunday. I thought it was a mistake taking him off as he had hit a lot of ball.
Young fellas are the key for Cork here. They are learning all the time. Throw them in at the deep end, let them sink or swim, in other words, they have got to go for it here.
Limerick are vulnerable at the moment, but they are still favourites. Cork might never get a better chance to take them, don’t be surprised.
Hopefully we will see another classic on Sunday with an electric atmosphere.
Bring it on.