Rebels to bounce back in Ennis
Munster SHL: Clare v Cork, Sunday January 7, Cusack Park, Ennis 2pm
The Munster Senior Hurling League may not have grabbed the hearts and minds of the hurling supporters of this great province just yet, but last Saturday's defeat to Limerick really has thrown a few cats in amongst the pigeons for the Rebel County as they now have two matches remaining with something on the line.
It looked going into the Limerick game last Saturday night that a Cork win and a good showing against Clare the following week may be enough to progress to the final however now, Cork will need to beat Clare and Kerry in their final two games to progress and that means that Cork will have gotten at least three good contests under their belts before the National League in a month's time.
Cork's loss to Limerick was hardly a disaster but having said that it was hardly the plan either. Confidence comes from winning and Cork need that confidence if they are to be credible this year.
The game with Clare next Sunday is Cusack Park now has a little on the line - even for this time of the year - as a win for Clare surely sees them to the final while a loss for Cork sees them effectively out with a dead rubber with Kerry likely to follow. No pressure then.
Cork's John Meyler will look to bolster his squad with one or two more familiar faces than took to the field in Mallow last weekend but that won't mean they will feature.
The Munster Hurling League is where Cork had planned to try out players and that is unlikely to change that much from last week however with the league so close it would be unreasonable to assume that the Rebels won't start to bring back some senior stars soon as a bad league can often have tragic repercussions for the rest of the season.
Clare got off to an impressive start against Kerry last weekend with a 4-20 to 0-12 win. The result may have been expected, but the manner would have pleased the Banner as they look to become a force again in Munster.
Cork will need to watch the Clare runners this weekend and show a little more solidity up the middle than they did against Limerick. Meyler's men will also need to work out a way to goal with the attacking sextet only making one real chance last time out.
Clare will be content with their start to 2018 and will see this game as a small stepping stone to where they want to go but a stepping stone it is and Clare will be happy to set down an early marker against the side that ended their dreams of a provincial title in 2017.
Clare showed, albeit against less than impressive opposition last Saturday, that they have an eye for goal so Cork will need to keep a solid back six to force Clare's attacking threat as far out the pitch as possible.
Cork will be better next Sunday and will likely have a similar team with a little bit more experience in it - so despite being away, don't be surprised to see Cork push this one all the way to the finish.