Some of the summer’s favourites may already be scampering for survival by the first week of June
May 27: Tipperary v Limerick, Munster SHC quarter-final, Thurles
In the context of the controversy surrounding Ciaran Carey’s exit as selector and Seamus Hickey’s injury in Limerick, Tipperary would appear to be the land of milk and honey. It ain’t. Lar Corbett’s return to the panel had undoubtedly given the camp a major boost ahead of Sunday week, but things have been rocky these past few weeks. A clear-the-air meeting was needed following a most disappointing Division 1 semi-final defeat to Cork. Tipperary have also been struggling to find the net and some key players have been slow to rediscover form this season. If there’s one team with limited reverence for Tipperary, it’s Limerick. They will be riled by talk among pundits that a Cork-Tipperary semi-final date by the Lee is almost written in stone. Should Declan Hannon be fit and able for Semple Stadium, John Allen will have at his disposal an exciting and youthful axis that have the ability to send a shockwave across the hurling firmament.
May 27: Meath v Wicklow, Leinster SFC first round, Carlow
That tickling sensation wafting through football’s nostrils in Wicklow is the scent of blood. Seamus McEnaney has done well to move on from the Meath executive’s unsuccessful attempt to oust him with the return of Joe Sheridan and addition of John Evans to the coaching ticket. But until such time as Meath start winning games he will continue to be a man on borrowed time. Wicklow, remember, are a Division 3 team next season, just like Meath, and they won seven league games compared to their opponents’ two. Harry Murphy has to be complimented on reviving the feelgood factor that ebbed a little under Mick O’Dwyer last year. Seanie Furlong is playing some brilliant football in the inside forward line while Leighton Glynn’s dynamism continues to trouble plenty. Much of this will come down to whether Meath can get their hands on a game-plan that works for them. Their players are claiming the recent problems can unify them but something more sophisticated will be needed.
Jun 3: Fermanagh v Down, Ulster SFC quarter-final, Enniskillen
Twelve months ago Fermanagh looked dead men walking going up to Celtic Park for their Ulster opener and sure enough they were, going down to Derry by eight points. It would be dismissive to say Peter Canavan has succeeded in tending all the wounds from last year’s walkout but he has put them in such a position now that they will fancy their chances here. Regardless of their Division 4 final defeat and them being a full 22 positions below Down in the league, the confidence instilled in them by Canavan is obvious to see and the return of Ryan McCluskey, Shane McCabe and Ryan Keenan to the team brings so much assuredness, not to mention Seamus Quigley’s scoring prowess. His physicality as well as that of Barry Owens and Marty McGrath will cause Down problems (watch any of their recent games against totemic Cork). The absence of forwards Benny Coulter and Martin Clarke also blunts what had been James McCartan’s strongest hand.
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