Provincial finals should stand alone, says Jamesie O’Connor

Jamesie O’Connor believes the GAA has scored an own goal with their decision to play the Munster and Leinster senior hurling finals on the same day this summer.

Both deciders will be contested on July 1 and O’Connor, who is a fan of the newly-formatted championship in general, believes the move will dilute the impact which the games have traditionally had as ‘standalone’ fixtures.

The Munster decider will throw-in at 2pm with the Leinster fixture following at 4pm.

“I’d always have gone to both,” he explained.

Even from a coverage perspective, you had a two-week lead in. The Munster final was here, the Leinster final was there. Even the (All-Ireland) semi-finals are on one weekend.

The Leinster Championship will start and finish inside 42 days this summer. The equivalent in Munster will span just 35 with the latter kicking in this weekend as Limerick host Tipperary and Clare travel to Cork.

The schedule is packed tight for most of the campaign although, with three weeks separating the All-Ireland semi-finals and the decider, there was more scope for gathering breath towards the end of proceedings.

One other tweak rankles. With no Munster side likely to face the prospect of a relegation play-off at the end of it all, there is the possibility that the province could find itself hosting one or two meaningless games at the end of the round robin section.

A problem some in Leinster would dearly love.

For now, the sense abroad is one of clear anticipation. Munster will make for a battle royal in which, as O’Connor put it at a Sky Sports event last week, everyone is capable of beating everyone else. Hope and nerves mix freely in a cocktail of emotion.

In Clare as much as anywhere else.

The two-time All-Ireland winner doesn’t take umbrage with odds of 11-1 on them winning the All-Ireland or those of 6-1 in terms of a Munster title. It’s not that he is without hope but he is realistic about any hopes of repeating their achievement in 2013, too.

“If anything, they look further away than ever,” he admitted.

The first game against Cork is massive. If you win that, with two home games to come, it is possible they might get on a roll. Defensively, I just don’t think they have the depth. I just don’t think our defence is good enough.

O’Connor doesn’t go along with the idea that the Banner won a ‘soft’ All-Ireland in 2013 while accepting they simply haven’t been good enough since to repeat it.

The talent is there, if not quite enough of it.

He doesn’t see any better midfield pairing in the game than Tony Kelly or Colm Galvin and if Shane O’Donnell, Conor McGrath, and Podge Collins could mine the seam discovered five years ago then anything could be possible.

Ultimately, there appears to be too many questions and a surfeit of ‘ifs’.

Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is key. Beat Cork — whom they saw off by four points in Ennis in the league back in February — and they have the chance to build on it with home advantage a week later against Waterford.

“Clare have no baggage with Cork. If you look at Tony Kelly and all those guys, they didn’t play Cork that often, certainly at U21 level. They were growing up watching Cork teams winning All-Irelands but I don’t think they fear Cork.

“They will feel they can go down there and get a result. They will feel they could have won the Munster final last year, (that) it shouldn’t have been as comfortable as it was. Get a result in Cork and it is a huge momentum-turner.”

O’Connor has his doubts over Cork, too.

“If you were to give me two points now after the first two games, I will take it. I would like to be greedy too and think we could go down to Cork and get a result. Until Cork prove that they can win ugly, the jury is still out on them.

“If you look at Galway, Tipp, Kilkenny, Waterford even, they probably all feel that if they met Cork in the championship, they can beat them. And that is the philosophy Clare will need to have. It is arguably the biggest game of the year for Clare.”



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