Former Cork hurler Lorcán McLoughlin believes the county would be better served by finishing third in the province, rather than progressing to yet another Munster final.
John Meyler’s charges travel to Cusack Park on Sunday needing to secure at least a draw to be certain of their place in the top three. (Were Limerick to lose to Tipperary in Thurles, Cork would still progress, even if they suffered defeat to Clare).
Cork have won the last two Munster Hurling Championships, with McLoughlin part of both panels, but the county was unable to build on either of those victories and lost their subsequent fixtures — All-Ireland semi-finals — in 2017 and 2018.
Limerick plotted their route to All-Ireland glory off the back of a third-place finish in last year’s Munster SHC round-robin and McLoughlin, who retired from the inter-county game last November, reckons its an approach the Rebels should follow.
“There is so much hype around a Munster final that win or lose, there is a comedown from it, and a break. Third place allows you to come in through the back door, where there is no hype, and then build for the latter stages of the All-Ireland championship — so third position would suit Cork better than getting to a Munster final this year,” reasoned McLoughlin.
“All Cork can do is try and win the game on Sunday. Where they finish after that is dependent on other factors. Third position suited Limerick last year. You get that extra game, you can build that extra momentum, test your panel, and see how strong it really is.”
The Banner have lost their last two outings by an aggregate total of 31 points and must overcome Cork to keep their season alive. However, getting past Clare to make sure of their progression to the All-Ireland series will be no easy feat, according to the Kanturk midfielder, who believes the ingredients are in place for a potential home ambush.
“I just think this weekend is set up nicely for Clare. They are coming into the game off the back of two really tough championship fixtures, from which there would have been a lot of negativity and criticism dealt out to the squad this week. So there will be a response from Clare and if they can get a performance, and get the crowd behind them on Sunday, it could easily be an ambush.
Turning to Cork, he maintains the schedule has not been kind to Meyler’s side.
“It is hard to see where Cork are getting momentum from. Ideally, they’d have wanted another championship game the week after beating Limerick to keep their momentum going. The Waterford game lacked intensity. It will be hard for Cork to build momentum from that performance.
“I still fancy Cork, though, as I believe they have the greater firepower.”