Ahead of Sunday’s Munster Final, the most intriguing battle for me is Anthony Nash’s puck-outs for Cork versus the knowledge of Donal Óg Cusack in the Clare camp.
The Cork stopper has been brilliant in the two Championship games to date, he orchestrates everything for them.
However, Cusack will have coached Nash on those when he was number one in the Rebel County in years gone by.
The Kanturk man changed his tactics between the Tipp game – where he was belting it down on the half forwards – and the Waterford one. The half backs and the midfield were his target that day.
We’ll have to see what Donal Óg, one of the game’s great thinkers, comes up with to counteract his old understudy.
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It was the seasoned players that got us over the line in 2001 when I won my first Munster title. Declan Ryan kicked in a goal and Brian O’Meara was man of the match.
That’s what Cork have on their side, the likes of Seamus Harnedy, Patrick Horgan, Mark Ellis, Anthony Nash and Conor Lehane. You can throw Clare’s All-Ireland win out, but since then they really haven’t played in any massive Championship games.
The Rebels probably have more experience of bigger days recently and a major plus for Cork is how their forwards are moving, neither Tipp or the Déise laid a finger on them. They absolutely ran the legs off them, so Clare’s half back line have to get to grips with Cork’s final third to win on Sunday.
It’s really ironic that the powers that be are talking about restructuring to a round-robin system when we’ve really had an unbelievable Munster Championship. It just brings home how much I’d hate to lose it!
Here's a #FBF to #CLAREvCORK in the 2013 All-Ireland Hurling Final Replay! HUGE @OfficialCorkGAA v @gaaclare crowd due in Thurles on Sunday! pic.twitter.com/lFHfzx5cEq
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 7, 2017
I was watching the Tipp/Cork game from the stands, it was unreal stuff. Even going down on the pitch afterwards and when you met some of the Cork people, to see what it meant to them to win was so special.
Just watching a sea of red flood the pitch and they did it again after beating Waterford three weeks later.
After being in the doldrums for a few years, The Rebels feel like they’re back in the hurling world and that’s what I don’t want to lose.
If you’re old enough you’re good enough
You really have to compliment the Cork management team for the way they’ve brought through their young stars this season. Gary Keegan has worked wonders on the psychological side for them.
It reminds me of the latter part of my career when Tipperary certainly had a winning mentality in the younger fellas coming through. Particularly from the All-Ireland minor winning teams of 2006 and 2007.
I remember sitting on the team bus in 2008 after being flogged around the Curragh by Liam Sheedy for three days at a training camp.
I turned to Lar Corbett and said: ‘We’re onto a winner here, look what’s coming through.’
That’s what Cork have now and even if they haven’t been getting the luck at minor for the last few year, they’ve still been very competitive. You can see now how that hunger from the youth has been successfully meshed with the experience already there.
The biggest thing however, is these lads have been given their chance. Even in the backs, they’re hitting their opponents right on the money, turning them over and driving on.
Damien Cahalane has stepped up massively with his authority around the square. He’s now dictating to his back line the physical standard they have to play with.
Cork would have always been known as a fast, pure, skilful team and now they’ve added a physicality ingredient that we haven’t seen over the last couple of seasons, that’s what Championship hurling is about.
But, all the good work they’ve done beating Tipperary and Waterford, Cork have to deliver on that Sunday. It could finish their season if they don’t bring a Munster final home with them.
I can’t see the winner on Sunday claiming the All-Ireland
Finally, I just can’t see the winner on Sunday claiming the All-Ireland.
Can Clare make it to September? I don’t see it happening, their half back line aren’t dominating enough to go all the way and you need that launching pad to win Liam McCarthy.
Could Cork get to a final? They can.
If the Rebels take the victory on Sunday the hype that will gather up in the county will be impossible to ignore for the players, especially the younger ones.
The five week gap to an All-Ireland semi-final takes a lot of getting used to and it killed The Rebels before in 2014, so you’re winner may be in the other side of the draw.Net some great GAA odds at PaddyPower.com