Wednesday 20 June 2018

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Cork's busier schedule leaves them vulnerable against rested Limerick

Graeme Mulcahy scored four points in the first half against Tipperary, yet was replaced by Barry Murphy at the threequarter stage. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Graeme Mulcahy scored four points in the first half against Tipperary, yet was replaced by Barry Murphy at the threequarter stage. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

When asked after Limerick's win over Tipperary if the 13-day break before the Cork test was the ideal gap, John Kiely replied that it would all depend on this evening's result.

"At the moment it is. Talk to me in two weeks' time, you might say it didn't fall at all. We'll have to wait and see what happens in the other games," he said.

The 'other games' were Cork v Clare, which started minutes after Kiely had spoken, and Cork v Tipperary last Sunday.

If Cork had lost both, their mood ahead of the Limerick test would have been decidedly downbeat, but instead it's brimming with confidence after a win and a draw.

Losing a nine-point lead against Tipperary last Sunday was disappointing but, on the broader scale, taking three of a possible four points from their first two games is most satisfactory in their quest to retain the Munster title.

It leaves them a point ahead of Limerick, who have played a game fewer, and Clare.

A win this evening would come close to booking a place in the final for Cork, especially since they will have a 15-day break before the last game against injury-stricken Waterford, who will be having their fourth outing in 21 days.

Given Tipperary's dreadful first half against Cork last week, it's difficult to accurately evaluate Limerick's win a week earlier.

Still, they did what was required to record their 10th win from 11 games (Munster League, Allianz League and Championship) this year, with the only defeat coming in extra-time against Tipperary in the League semi-final.

It points to a squad brimming with confidence and ambition. And with Kiely able to utilise greater depth than at any time in many years, the graph is on a steep upward curve.

Graeme Mulcahy scored four points in the first half against Tipperary, yet was replaced by Barry Murphy at the three-quarter stage.

Four others were replaced too, but such well-known names as Shane Dowling, Richie McCarthy and David Reidy remained on the bench, further emphasising the strength of Kiely's squad.

John Meyler used only three subs in each of Cork's last two games, suggesting perhaps that once he goes beyond the top 18, the real quality isn't there.

Still, he does have some outstanding forwards so Cork will always be a threat to any opposition.

All the more so in Páirc Uí Chaoímh, where they are trying to turn the redeveloped stadium into a real fortress.

The venue certainly adds to the size of the challenge facing Limerick this evening, but with the atmosphere in the camp so positive, they will believe they can take a significant step towards booking a place in the final for the first time since 2014.

They scored 1-23 and shot 13 wides against Tipperary, which underlines how much possession they won.

Much of the enterprise comes from half-backs Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon and Dan Morrissey, who have developed into a formidable presence.

As well as winning a lot of possession, their angled deliveries are usually very accurate, giving corner-forwards Mulcahy and Aaron Gillane every chance of out-running their markers.

Limerick play the passing game well too, calmly moving through the lines in what is a definite culture change for a county famous for its direct style. That has been the biggest change under Kiely and, so far at least, is working well.

Three of the four Munster games so far have been home wins, with one draw, which appears to give Cork the edge.

However, the demands of playing three games in 13 days may be too much against a slick and rested Limerick outfit.

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