Still everything to play for the way to Munster

No matter what we all thought as it started five short weeks ago, but no later than last weekend, who could have foreseen the Munster Championship heading to such a tense conclusion, with third place critical still in play for three teams?

From a point where we saw the three qualifiers like Limerick, Waterford and Cork, a new story emerged. It’s still about Limerick’s dominance, though perhaps not with as much emphasis, and the rise of Clare, who just a week ago fought the champions to a draw in Ennis.

Waterford and Cork had been league runners-up and were considered second and third in the province, in Waterford’s case an increasingly close second. They are still involved but now even Tipperary have a chance to qualify after a campaign which, while still futile, has improved and created some hope for the future.

It may be an ideal final for the spectators, but it’s hugely disappointing for Liam Cahill and Waterford, who have to go to Ennis knowing that it doesn’t matter how well they play and how convincingly they win. , it doesn’t matter if Cork beats Tipperary.

Circumstances favor them in one respect. Clare is already in the final and I would be amazed if Brian Lohan plays a full hand in this game.

Maybe Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan could do with playing time, but why would you risk Tony Kelly and some of the hottest artists like Ryan Taylor, who would all need to recharge the batteries, when he is there no reason to do so?

I was surprised Limerick didn’t rest more players last week. They were already in the All-Ireland series and almost certainly in the Munster final given the score difference.

It’s a constant theme of the round robin format that no team can go at a high tempo for four games without risking some sort of damage, whether it’s injury or just burnout. energy reserves. If you don’t have to, what’s the point?

Worrying signs

It’s hard to believe Waterford find themselves in this position. It was clear from Tipp’s game that their form had plummeted, and while they came out of the Gaelic Grounds with some credit, there were also some very worrying signs like the form of key players.

The cramped confines of Walsh Park didn’t help either, and last weekend even Dessie Hutchinson, who had retained some form, couldn’t make an impact against Cork. Stephen Bennett continued to struggle and Austin Gleeson gave up his resistance to a man for the crucial final 10 minutes with a second yellow card.

It was a significant drop in league form. Waterford can still qualify, but do they even believe it?

Cork are favorites over Thurles and rightly so because although I expect Tipperary to play well, are they likely to win? Probably not. It’s a new challenge for Cork as last week they arrived with nothing to lose but the pressure is now on to seal their progress.

Kieran Kingston’s game plan ditched the league’s tactical rigidity and against Limerick and Clare. It’s as if he had decided “that’s it, we’re going to play a simpler game”. They challenged harder for primary possession, as evidenced by the good line-up of Darragh Fitzgibbon and Ciarán Joyce at vital stages.

They were also more direct because Alan Connolly and Tim O’Mahony, signed as full forwards, gave them that option. To me, they look a lot more powerful playing a less complicated game and not always moving the ball regimentally between the lines.

If there’s one caveat about them, it’s that while in Thurles v Clare and Páirc Uí Chaoimh v Limerick their work rate was questionable, the tighter spaces in Walsh Park were more forgiving. They’ll have to be at a higher intensity because Tipperary, based on what we’ve seen, are working incredibly hard even though the results haven’t gone their way.

Key match

Leinster followed more predictable lines. The key game was between Wexford and Dublin, and Mattie Kenny’s men won it and that advantage will almost certainly give them third place no matter what happens in Galway.

Wexford are another league casualty after winning all of their group matches in this competition. I have some sympathy with them for last week’s shock concession of a draw against Westmeath. I think in many inter-county matches that equalizer would have been disallowed for a square ball.

Their campaign hasn’t been helped by Lee Chin’s injury as well as Liam Ryan apparently landing a blow, and they are due to travel to Nowlan Park on Saturday night and face a Kilkenny side that impressed me a week ago , no matter how poor Dublin was. .

They pitch with that intensity that sets Brian Cody teams apart at their best, which means playing at a brisk pace that makes the opposition almost irrelevant. Cian Kenny is looking at another useful acquisition, and I’ll be interested in how the team is playing and what that suggests for his prospects.

I just don’t see Wexford throwing a curveball.

Galway generally find Dublin difficult in the Championship and have lost Leinster’s last two meetings. This is a test of where Henry Shefflin has Galway. For me, they had their moments and Tom Monaghan looks promising. They’re physically enhanced, and if they want to be real competitors, they need to put that to bed with as little fuss as possible.

Finally, Westmeath have the chance to back up the excellent result against Wexford by securing a place in next year’s Championship. Their form and Laois’ injuries give them every chance.