By Eoghan Cormican and Stephen Barry
Neither Cork nor Tipperary proposed making their Munster SFC semi-final part of a triple-header at Semple Stadium this Sunday, Munster GAA chiefs insist.
The Cork and Tipperary footballers meet Saturday in Thurles (7pm), with the minor (12pm) and senior (2pm) hurlers from both counties in action at the same venue less than 24 hours later.
Liam Kearns’ charges overcame Waterford last Saturday but are angry at having to line out again this weekend. Playing on Sunday would at least have allowed supporters from both counties take in the two senior games.
Factor in that the game also clashes with the Champions League final and the attendance at the Munster semi-final — 4,570 watched the corresponding fixture at Páirc Uí Rinn 12 months ago — is likely to suffer.
However, Munster Council chairman Jerry O’Sullivan says that during discussions to hammer out a date after the initial plan (Thurles, Saturday, June 2) was taken off the table to avoid a clash with Cork-Limerick in the Munster SHC, neither county proposed playing the game this Sunday.
Sunday, June 3, in Thurles was also a non-runner from a Munster Council viewpoint, given the Tipperary hurlers face Waterford at the Gaelic Grounds that afternoon.
“Neither side mentioned this Sunday to us as an option,” said O’Sullivan.
When agreement between the counties could not be found, the Munster CCC, on April 5, fixed the game for this Saturday, May 26.
In the intervening six-and-a-half weeks, the Munster Council have not received any correspondence from either Cork or Tipperary, stressed the chairman.
This despite Liam Kearns labelling the decison an “absolute disgrace” and claiming it comprismised the integrity of the Munster SFC.
O’Sullivan said he is not in the business of diminishing any competition in “any way, shape or form”. He added: “Aside from what Liam has been saying in the media, we didn’t hear a word from anybody.”
A triple-header on Sunday, June 3, alongside Tipperary-Waterford in the Munster SHC at the Gaelic Grounds, was mentioned, but Tipperary, understandably, were not willing to forfeit home advantage.
The offer to play the game on Saturday, June 10, was made, but this wasn’t acceptable to the counties.
Speaking after beating Waterford, Tipp manager Kearns said: “We’re determined it’s not going to be won in a committee room, it’s not going to be won by a committee and it’s not going to be won in a boardroom.
“It’s going to be won out there on the field. Cork had better turn up ready to play because we’ll be here to play”.
It was a sentiment echoed by Liam McGrath after top-scoring on his first championship start.
“Seven days between now and a semi-final, it’s a bit harsh but that’s what they’re after throwing at us,” said the Loughmore-Castleiney forward.
The 2011 All-Ireland-winning minor captain made a long-awaited championship start, having spent time with the county’s hurlers under Eamon O’Shea and Michael Ryan. His focus is now on satisfying management as they build towards the make-or-break clash.
“I’m happy enough with my performance but the big one is to improve for next week, have another good outing and just keep improving. Don’t let the performance slip up and to keep Kearns happy is the main thing.”
In the absence of Conor Sweeney (a hamstring doubt for Saturday), McGrath scored 0-9, including seven frees converted with both feet.
“For my first full start it went well enough. Well, the first-half wasn’t great, the second-half was a bit of an improvement, but things could be a bit better. I’d say the next day (Conor) Sweeney will be entrusted with the frees but I was happy enough they went well for me.”
The Munster Council have expressed general satisfaction with the opening weekend of the Munster SHC round-robin. Attendances at Cork-Clare (24,490) and Limerick-Tipperary (20,423) were more than double the crowd at Wexford-Dublin (10,228) and Kilkenny-Offaly (17,194) in the Leinster SHC.
“We had 45,000 at the two games,” said Jerry O’Sullivan. “They were two very respectable attendances for what were two first-round games. Both games were very competitive and that is an indication of how competitive the Munster championship is at present. Who knows what will happen hereafter.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.