1. Páirc Uí Chaoimh
It’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the best venue in the country to see a game on a big day and it’s your last chance before they bring in the wrecking ball.
It’s Cork v Limerick. I know, Cork v Tipperary is the Munster SHC rivalry, but this one ain’t bad either. A long shared border from Meelin to Mitchelstown by way of Charleville, with a lot of shared hostelries along that route (Pakie’s in Charleville and Barrett’s in Effin two fairly hot spots over the next few days, hotter again next week).
Look, these guys are Munster champions, were beaten by Clare in the All-Ireland semi-final last year but it left a lot of ‘what ifs’. They’re a quality side with quality players. Nicky Quaid, a centre-back for his club Effin, has become one of the best keepers in the country, but then he would, wouldn’t he?
The full-back trio would eat you alive, Richie McCarthy and Tom Condon especially (Seamus Hickey adds the X factor), while the three outside them... well would you want to bump into Wayne McNamara when he’s in a foul mood? Midfield is better than solid and James Ryan is in the form of his life while the attack is multi-pronged. Class outfit.
It takes two to tango and you just know Cork will be fired up for this, especially after the damp squib and the humiliation of last Sunday’s football final debacle. As with Limerick, they have talent from front to back. Beaten All-Ireland finalists last year, beaten by Limerick themselves in the Munster final so, despite it being a year of progress, no silverware. Sunday offers that opportunity.
The craic in Cork city, before and after. Advice to Limerick fans: take your sweet time this Sunday. Arrive early, have some Clonakilty pudding and the breakfast in or around the city, a pint, then stroll to the park. Leave the car, preferably on the Limerick side of the bridge. Same route in reverse afterwards and again, be in no hurry. Better be sitting on a high stool engaging with a few locals than boiling in traffic in the car. Stop off then at the Bridge Bar in Ballyhea on the way back to Limerick and Trevor will salve your wounds...
6. The midfield battle
All those in Cork who have been raving about the performances of Aidan Walsh, here comes another dual star, James ‘Jim Bob’ Ryan. He’s not as tall as Aidan but be assured that he’s at least as strong and has the same-size engine. Different manufacturer perhaps, but no end to either of them. This one will be interesting. Then you look at Daniel Kearney and Paul Browne. Here it’s the Corkman giving away a few inches but those two, box to box, pace to burn, are so precise in their shooting. Great duels in prospect.
7. Shane Dowling
The Diarmuid O’Sullivan 100-plus yard point from 2001 (he struck it from just outside his own 45m line) is now, rightly, the stuff of legend. What odds Shane Dowling hitting one from the same range this Sunday? With this guy around a team doesn’t have to just stay disciplined in the defence area, the same applies to midfield and the half-forwards. Concede a free anywhere from your own 65m line forward and you concede a point.
8. Patrick Horgan
Both teams have their flyers, be it Lehane, Mulcahy, Cadogan or Tobin, but this guy is pure silk, soft hands deadening the ball from the sky, magical wrists to control and deadly in the strike. There are players who on their own can be worth the entrance fee on any given day. Patrick is one such.
It’s a Munster senior hurling final. I don’t care if it’s held in a bog, I don’t care if there isn’t a recognisable name on either team-sheet; this is still one of the great days on the GAA calendar, if not the great day. Croke Park and September and All-Ireland Sunday is the pinnacle of achievement, yes, has its own buzz, but there’s something about a Munster hurling final. !
10. The minor final
Limerick v Waterford is an opportunity to see the stars of the not-so-distant future. A repeat of last year’s minor final, a game Limerick lost in the first half, lost even more in the early part of the second half, but somehow came back to tie. They won the replay but Waterford went on to win the All-Ireland and with a plethora of stars back for both teams, this will be a quality game. Look for Ronan Lynch (centre-back), Cian Lynch (midfield) and Tom Morrissey (full-forward) for Limerick. For Waterford, Shane Bennett (centre-back), Cormac Curran (centre-forward) and Patrick Curran (full-forward).
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