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Nicky English: We could be in for a high-scoring free-for-all with Cork v Tipperary

Cork can run up big totals but are also prone to conceding a lot

After the fireworks of last weekend it’s back to brass tacks. Cork’s win over the All-Ireland champions dominated a busy weekend when Leinster also got in on the act with an amazing performance from Carlow against Kilkenny.

The Munster championship has, however, been the star performer, and you can understand the outcry to have the matches accessible on remote control.

Cork won one match after losing two and 20,000 supporters invaded the pitch to celebrate. That doesn’t help Pat Ryan, you’d imagine. I saw that they came back to training on Sunday afternoon and he said they had parked the result but they’re still not out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves and that sort of emotional outpouring is hard to park.

Tipp are also still on a redemption mission and have had a fortnight to refocus. I know from a lifetime of involvement in Cork-Tipp matches that they nearly always take on a life of their own and everything you know becomes unreliable, typically in high-scoring free-for-alls with the outsider frequently coming through.


Very few of these fixtures have been out of reach for one side or the other. So all the old ingredients are on the table for Tipperary to spring a surprise.

They have their first match at home and have steadied themselves somewhat having come out of Limerick with no apparent structure or even battle. In Walsh Park Waterford essentially had them beaten, four up in injury time, but Tipp found a bit of fight and rescued it.

Maybe they were lucky but you can be sure training was easier for Liam Cahill in the last two weeks. But they still have no clearly defined structure and are up against it this weekend. They have at least discovered some spirit and determination and that’s a start. I think they will maintain that attitude and they have nothing to lose whereas Cork now do.

One thing that will worry Liam Cahill is the pace that Cork can bring with the likes of Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Barrett and Shane Kingston when he arrives. There was a lot of space for Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds but Walsh Park is tighter, which possibly suited Tipp better than the bigger grounds like Thurles this weekend.

A lifeline for them is Cork’s defence. For all the big totals they have put up, Pat Ryan’s team are also conceding big. They are averaging over 32 points a match – against 24 for Tipp – but still have a negative scoring difference. They need to score that much because they are conceding nearly three goals per outing.

They did get on top of the discipline issue last week but at a cost as replacing Eoin Downey as soon as he got a yellow didn’t help the defence, but you could understand the reluctance to risk another red card.

Tipperary’s problem is that their attack hasn’t found any real form yet and they have scored only one goal from three attempts over two games. Jake Morris has been subdued and Mark Kehoe carried the scoring burden in Walsh Park. Jason Forde is going through such a crisis that he may not even start on Sunday, and in general the forwards whereas improved in terms of application have been questionable on inspiration.

I have never subscribed to the view that Liam Cahill’s teams are more likely to get goals but they are going to need them. At the back Waterford opened them up for chances almost at will, and with Alan Connolly, Patrick Horgan and Brian Hayes all buzzing with confidence on the Cork inside line that if repeated won’t end well for Tipp.

On form Cork look well ahead, with far greater scoring power, which is where Tipperary’s real challenge lies.

The other match in Ennis is again tough to call. Waterford to date have been arguably as impressive as anyone. They should have beaten Tipp, which means they left a point behind them or they would be on four out of four.

Their defence has been really solid and until the end Tipperary didn’t lay a glove on them. I’d be concerned at the loss of Conor Prunty as he and Tadhg De Búrca have been a formidable spine at the back – as good as any in the championship – and Calum Lyons is the season’s outstanding attacking defender to date.

Clare though bring a lot of what Waterford have: physicality, athleticism, some good forwards, strength and pace, David Fitzgerald and Shane O’Donnell in particular up front. Diarmuid Ryan and John Conlon aren’t easy to penetrate in defence but I think they need to improve their last lines of defence.

Goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan was good against Cork but is back on home ground where the pressure is greater. Both Clare corner backs have a tendency to try to get their bodies out in front and play for frees and as a result can get caught out. They are conceding too much, which you can’t say about Waterford.

Clare are formidable but if they continue to concede three goals a match they will be in trouble.

Leinster is wide open. Kilkenny surprisingly got caught by Carlow and it emphasised that they no longer have the strength in depth they once did but I think with a full deck they probably will win Leinster.

A bit chastened they go to Parnell Park where Dublin are fairly buoyant with Dónal Burke back in harness – he strikes the ball beautifully and is a fantastic free-taker. They got a draw out of nothing in Wexford, survived the Carlow scare and absolutely hammered Antrim.

Unfortunately for them I think there will be a backlash here, and with Eoin Cody fit again and restored to the attack that gets Kilkenny over the line.