You fear for the loser of crunch Limerick-Banner showdown
Published 20/05/2015 | 02:30
Driving down the country over Christmas, I heard John Mullane on the radio previewing the hurling year ahead. He pointed to May 24 as the key date on the calendar. The loser of Clare and Limerick, he suggested, could win the All-Ireland.
Ludicrous as it sounds, it's a tough road for the winner of Sunday's curtain-raiser to the Munster Hurling Championship.
We spoke to Sean Cavanagh on Off The Ball on Monday night, and though devastated by Tyrone's defeat to Donegal, he did point out that going through the qualifiers could be an easier route than going to Armagh and either Derry or Down, and all before they even reached an Ulster final.
A similar fate awaits the winner of Sunday's game. Tipperary followed by a Munster final against one of the two League finalists is surely not the easiest way to make an All-Ireland semi-final.
That said, now that May 24 is looming, it feels as though this fixture is critical for both teams.
Clare, after a horrendous defence of their All-Ireland title last year, were relegated in the league.
Limerick, still crushed by their semi-final defeat to Kilkenny last August, failed to win promotion from Division 1B.
They've been on the verge of something for a couple of years now, and will wonder if their window is closing.
This is a game between two teams who badly need the confidence and momentum a Munster Championship win will give them.
Limerick need to kick on after last year. Clare need to get back on track, before the memory of 2013 is too distant.
You get the impression both could be vulnerable in the qualifiers if it's on the back of another disappointment.
I'll be in Thurles on Sunday. It's the Munster Championship. Summer's here. It felt a long way off listening to Mullane (left) back in December. I agreed with him at the time.
But as we approach the game, it's feeling like a must-win.