As we wave goodbye to the inaugural Munster senior hurling championship round robin this weekend, John Fogarty makes some observations on the old and the new in Sunday’s final round.
RED IS THE COLOUR
Games in the last seven seasons between Cork and Waterford have produced at least one red card.
Waterford have picked up five of them, Maurice Shanahan incurring his third dismissal soon after coming on in their most recent meeting.
There’s enough form to suggest there will be at least another on Sunday, regardless of Waterford being out of the championship.
Besides, there have been enough players slipping red card offences (John McGrath, Lee Chin and possibly Conor Lehane) in recent weeks that referee John Keenan will be on high alert.
Waterford v Cork recent red cards: Maurice Shanahan (2018 Division 1 relegation play-off), Seamus Harnedy (2018 Division 1), Damien Cahalane, Conor Gleeson, Patrick Horgan (2017 All-Ireland SHC), Colm Spillane (2017 Munster SHC), Shanahan (2017 Division 1), Shanahan (2016 Division 1), Luke O’Farrell (2015 Munster SHC).
This may be the fourth consecutive championship Clare and Limerick have met, but it’s the first since 2015 that their game has been televised on RTÉ.
For the last two seasons, Sky has exclusively broadcast their matches, a 2016 qualifier and a Munster championship game last year.
The 2017 decision, part of the new media rights deal, drew criticism from Clare chairman Joe Cooney.
“We’re disappointed for our loyal supporters who can’t attend on the day, those both young and old, who for one reason or another can’t make it,” said Cooney.
“We will be fighting our case for all championship matches to be made available live on national television, because they should be shown on national television.”
With the limited, sold-out capacity in Cusack Park, the fact the national broadcasters have the game will come as a relief to a lot of those who can’t attend.
A CORK WIN
Regardless of what Cork do on Sunday, Clare will remain as the only team to pick up a true away win in this Munster championship providing Limerick don't win in Ennis.
A draw could end up securing this Cork side their second successive Munster final appearance, but there would be something hollow in that, even if it would mean they finish out the campaign unbeaten.
Cork need a win, as much to make that provincial showdown as to prove that tiredness was the reason they couldn’t exploit their numerical disadvantage at home against Limerick and the losing of a nine-point lead to Tipperary was just an anomaly.
Cork management and players have done well to put on a united front on these second-half setbacks, highlighting the level of competition they have been facing, but ruthlessness has to be on their minds this weekend.
If Waterford are to be put out of their misery, then it should be done as early as possible.
FORTRESS CUSACK PARK
Kieran Shannon wrote recently of the strength of Cusack Park as a championship venue to Clare.
Going by what Podge Collins said yesterday, it matters a great deal to this current bunch and the proof of the pudding is their league record there: In their last 14 games in Ennis, they have won 11 and claimed a draw.
Clare mightn’t say it out loud, but they believe Cusack Park would have given them the edge in the Division 1 quarter-final, which Limerick claimed after the free shoot-out in the Gaelic Grounds.
The Clare Roar is back too and Limerick are facing a third game in 14 days and we all know how that schedule has worked out for everyone but Galway.
DON’T DAMN THE DÉISE
Cork on Sunday are fully expected to pick up their ninth SHC win over Waterford in the last 20 years, but there are a few flies in the ointment.
There is the nothing-to-lose attitude Waterford will bring to the game, their return to Thurles, which is as cosy to them as Cork, the motivation provided by Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh’s record-breaking day and the possibility this could be Derek McGrath’s final game in charge.
For some of the Déise players, this could be their last game ever.
PLUS ÇA CHANGE
Paracetamol was the drug of choice this past week, as John Mullane spoke of needing one co-commentating on the thrilling end to the Clare- Tipperary game and John Kiely even mentioning a brand of such — Panadol — when asked about the selection headache facing him ahead of the short trip on the M18 to Ennis.
After Shane Dowling, who had been on the bench unused for the games against Tipperary and Cork, sent over 15 points, Kiely has been given food for thought, especially with Aaron Gillane available again.
He certainly has options, but for all the pre-championship chatter about the need for a squad, Limerick have started with only 17 players thus far.
Clare have gone with 16 for their three outings, the same as Cork.
Compare this to Tipp and Waterford, who made wholesale switches, and it would seem sticking is a better option than twisting.
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