Former Limerick manager TJ Ryan has described the Munster SHC draw as “lopsided”, pointing to Cork and Waterford as the big winners from Friday evening’s draw.
Kieran Kingston’s Cork and Liam Cahill’s Waterford meet in the Munster semi-final, the winners of which will be rewarded with - at the very least - a place in the last six of the All-Ireland championship.
“Cork and Waterford will definitely be the happier counties after the draw. They have a straight shootout over 70 minutes to get to a Munster final, whereas for the other three, it is very tricky,” said Ryan.
“Certainly for Liam Cahill in his first year, it is a good opportunity for him. It is a one-off shootout and the prize is huge. A Munster final would be real progress for Waterford.”
The Waterford SHC is to be completed by the end of August and although a number of Liam Cahill’s players will subsequently switch codes at club level, the Déise boss should enjoy a lengthy period of time with his charges ahead of the Cork fixture on the October Bank Holiday weekend. It remains to be seen from what date Kieran Kingston will have uninterrupted access to his full panel given the Cork County Board have yet to decide on the dates and structure for their championships.
On the other side of the Munster draw, Brian Lohan’s Clare will have to down the last two All-Ireland winning teams just to make it as far as the provincial decider.
“For Limerick and Clare, they have to win three very difficult games to win Munster. And even just to get to the Munster final, they'll have to overcome the All-Ireland champions. It is definitely lopsided,” Ryan observed.
“Limerick beat Clare well last year, but Clare had been going well under Lohan in the league. The winners are rewarded by having to play the All-Ireland champions, a very difficult draw. But at the same time, from Liam Sheedy's point of view, he is going to be playing a team with a championship win under their belt.
“There is a huge mixed bag there. It will be championship hurling with a twist. Who knows what is coming down the track. I am sure there will be surprises.”
The former Limerick forward believes all four Munster championship games should be played at neutral venues.
“If counties have home and away agreements and they want to stick by them, then so be it. I don't know if the home and away agreements that were there before the introduction of the round-robin are still live and valid. The fairest way would be a neutral venue and then no one could complain.”
He added: “To have the old format back is exciting. The cut and thrust of the Munster championship, whereby you only get one chance in the province, is certainly back. That is definitely going to make it exciting for the fan. It is probably not ideal from a manager's point of view, particularly if he loses a player through an injury picked up while playing club. It is difficult to be bang on on a particular day.
“I am happy there is a second chance via the qualifiers. It looked like for a while that the hurling championship may go the way of the football championship and we might have no backdoor, that would have been tough.
“It is hard to know what sort of a championship it will be given we'll be heading into winter when it starts and whether that will have an effect on teams. A bad Sunday in October or early November may not suit certain teams, but that is a conversation for a different day.”
Christy Ring Cup quarter-finals: Down v London; Offaly v Kildare; Roscommon v Wicklow; Derry v Sligo.
2020 Nicky Rackard Cup quarter-finals: Armagh v Leitrim; Warwickshire v Tyrone; Donegal v Longford; Monaghan v Mayo