In his weekly Limerick Leader GAA column, Martin Kiely says that Limerick will be underdogs for the Munster final but that Cork aren’t unbeatable.
The dye for the Munster hurling final was cast last Sunday in Thurles when Cork blew Clare out of the Munster championship for the second year in a row.
This was a game that told us Cork have improved greatly and they will now face Limerick in a repeat of last year’s final, only this time the game will be played in Cork’s Pairc Ui Chaoimh and the capacity will be much smaller at just 34,000.
That will mean huge demand for tickets as this game will be a sell out and it will make the next few weeks very interesting in the build up. Cork outsmarted Clare and they showed great hunger in the way they went at Clare from the very start. While only a few points separated them in the finish few will disagree that Cork was much the better team for the entire game.
Clare looked a tired team and were unable to match Cork for hunger and pace. Clare might well argue with some of the decisions of the referee James Ownes but it was clear for all to see that he applied the rules and it would be an insult to Cork if any other view was expressed.
Cork have progressed greatly from last year and this has been greatly helped by the fact that some new players have come into the team, players like Aidan Walsh and Damien Cahalane have given added strength to the centre line of this team and this was badly missing last year. Walsh, from Kanturk, was just one of the key reasons Cork won, his high catching and power running propelled the rebels over the line and Clare had no answer to him on the day. Pat Horgan was razor sharp from frees and he caught the Clare defenders asleep on a couple of occasions when he blasted home two cracking goals that were to prove vital in this game.
Cork could have had this game well controlled before half time were it not for the fact that they gave away a scrappy goal just before the short whistle. That goal should have lifted Clare but Cork showed great resolve in the way they held their heads and added some points early in the second half.
Pat Horgan proved once again to be a key man for Cork and his final tally, while a huge personal achievement, was mostly from placed balls and this is becoming a feature of the game now as every free is punished by some great marksmen in the game. Shane Dowling proved this in Limerick’s win over Tipperary and it suggests both of these players will battle it out on Munster Final day.
For a while it appeared Clare was going to come back into the game in a major way when points from Nicky O’Connell and Cathal McInerney cut the margin to five. Cork died a little around the middle third and when centre back Mark Ellis went off it allowed Clare run a little more because Ellis was playing well and was very much in charge of his half back line.
When Horgan scored his second goal from a penalty the game was over and while Clare cut the margin when Cork took the leg off the pedal it was, in essence at that stage, well over long before the final whistle.
Jimmy Barry Murphy has turned Cork hurling around and huge credit is due to him, he had a few that were trying really hard to make life difficult for him but he is the King of Cork hurling and no one was going to take him on and hope to get the backing of the public. Murphy has done huge work to turn Cork around and they are now in a very good place and one would have to say at this stage that they are now serious All Ireland contenders after the way they dismissed Clare.
Limerick will know what’s coming down the track now and this will be a very different game than last year’s final at the Gaelic Grounds. Cork will come into the game with great hunger and they will want to take the short road to Croke Park and book their place in the All Ireland semi final.
Limerick will have had a long layoff and how that is managed could prove vital in the lead up to this final. It proved to be a major problem last year before the All Ireland semi final and let’s hope some lessons can be learned from that experience. Cork showed, in all of their games so far in the championship, that using the bench, but more importantly, developing the bench with each game has worked well for them.
They have blooded players and they are getting match time in the championship and that is the only way they can improve. Can Limerick improve their bench? Are some players ever going to play at this level and are some of them good enough?
The next few weeks should be brilliant. Limerick will go in as underdogs but they need to have their wits about them. The Limerick management and players need to be smart and learn from the past. Limerick can win this game but the build up will be very important. Limerick will have seen how Cork played last Sunday and one thing is for sure we now have time to get a plan in place and make sure we have more than one plan going to Cork.
Jimmy Barry Murphy showed Clare a few tricks last Sunday and they were not going to be caught a second time by them. Limerick will find training more pleasing now that they know who they are playing and that will give the team and management a major boost.
The battle for tickets has started already and the planning to win the game is well underway.