Limerick can disrupt free-flowing exchanges in which Cork thrive
Cork v Limerick - Croke Park, Sunday, 3.30pm (Live, RTÉ 2 and Sky Arena)
James Owens sends off Aaron Gillane during the Munster round robin match between Limerick and Cork. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The teams produced one of the best evenings of the provincial championships in Cork last month before the biggest crowd of the round-robin phase, 35,000, a figure expected to be doubled on Sunday. It’s rare to have a match that doesn’t just divide opinion but discourages it. No-one knows who’s going to win.
There are established facts. Cork have sidled through the championship – to the cheery satisfaction of their management – with match-day focus nearly always on the opposition. They are furthermore unbeaten and have back-to-back Munster titles on the sideboard.
Again, this weekend the public engagement has been more with the coming of a Limerick team, credibly threatening the 45-year All-Ireland famine, than with the Munster champions – apart from speculation that captain Séamus Harnedy may not be fit, which would in modern parlance indeed be a “game changer”.
In beating Kilkenny, Limerick hurled with power and purpose. Their near-death experience after the Richie Hogan goal accordingly made them stronger but it’s also worth bearing in mind that they created umpteen goal chances.
There is a sense about Cork that their best phases come when the opposition is in some way negligent.
A sensible – but anxious – Limerick man pointed out that a different interpretation is that Cork have become like Kilkenny of old in their ability to find ways not to lose and how to limit damage.
They also have a clear advantage in free taking, as Patrick Horgan is the top dead ball exponent left in the championship. Aaron Gillane has been inconsistent off the tee although there is a clear threat in his ability to get on the end of goal chances even if the finish needs to improve as well as his forbearance, given that Seán O’Donoghue will hardly have failed to notice his likely marker’s short fuse in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Forced to choose, you would have to view Limerick as a more evenly constructed outfit, with physicality and pace throughout. They can still get to grips with their opponents and disrupt the free-flowing exchanges in which the Munster champions thrive. Verdict: Limerick