The 2019 Munster Championship kicked off on Sunday with a brace of games. In the early game, Waterford couldn’t make use of home advatage as they fell to Clare 1-20 to 0-22.
In Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Tipperary secured a first Munster championship victory since 2016 when they overcame Cork 2-28 to 1-24.
Here we look at some of the key points to emerge from the games.
Old guard show their worth for Sheedy
There was much talk heading into Tipperary’s clash with Cork pertaining to the fact that they had won only three of their previous league and championship games. This talk was furthered when Liam Sheedy, in charge of his first championship game since 2010, named eleven of the starting XV from the 2016 All-Ireland final against Kilkenny from the start in Pairc Ui Chaoimh despite the Premier County winning an U21 All-Ireland title last summer.
However, his selections were justified as Tipperary were far too strong and slick for a Cork side that lacked composure throughout in front of 30,000+ spectators. Stalwarts such as Padraic Maher, Seamus Callanan and Noel McGrath shone for Tipp while Brendan Maher was the pick of the players in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
This core of players that were so integral to Sheedy almost a decade ago demonstrated just how valuable they can be for their county and a first victory in Munster since 2017 has Tipperary looking primed to challenge again.
In addition to those, Sheedy now has the luxury of working with players of the elk of Ronan Maher, Jason Forde, John McGrath and Bubble O’Dwyer with the latter looking back to his best in a man of the match display with 0-7 to his name yesterday.
They welcome Waterford to Semple Stadium next weekend where a second win will have them in pole position to not only qualify for the All-Ireland series but a first Munster final since 2016.
Clare come up trumps in Walsh Park
The Waterford hurlers hosted a championship game in Walsh Park for the first time since 2003 yesterday when they welcomed Clare to Dungarvan. After such a disappointing display in Munster last summer where they failed to build on the All-Ireland final appearance in 2017, Waterford were fancied to pick up the win in front of a rapturous home crowd.
However, Clare spoiled the party as they picked up their first win over the Deise for the second consecutive year. Having led by six at the break, Clare looked home and hosed heading into injury time but were made to work for their win as Waterford notched five of the last six scores as they almost secured am unlikely draw.
The defeat means that Waterford must take something from the game in Thurles this weekend if they are to progress to the All-Ireland series.
As for Clare, they are not in action this weekend and should take the time to analyse their potential opponents with their next fixture against Tipperary in Ennis on June 2. This win has them poised perfectly to reach a third consecutive Munster final as they look to bridge a 21-year gap since their last victory in the province.
The return to form of Tony Kelly will be most pleasing to management with the 2013 Hurler of the Year arguably the most unstoppable performer on his day with his role even more crucial with the likes of Conor McGrath and Ian Galvin unavailable trough injury.
After being the width of the post away from the All-Ireland Final in 2018, Clare are looking like they are out to avenge that defeat already.
Pat Horgan the key if Limerick are to beat Cork
Yesterday in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork were second best for majority of the game against Tipperary. While the Premier County did show signs of the form that saw them to an All-Ireland title in 2016, it can be argued that they played into Tipperary’s hands. Lacklustre marking aligned with their persistent long ball strategies saw them lose a first Munster championship game in three years.
Cork played far too many balls into the half-back line and should they do that against a line containing Diarmuid Byrnes, Declan Hannon and Dan Morrissey in the Gaelic Grounds next Sunday there is sure to be a similar result.
However, they will take solace in the face of Patrick Horgan’s performance with the Glen Rovers player a one-man wrecking machine in the Cork full forward line finishing with 0-14 of his sides total of 1-24. While 0-10 may have come from placed balls, the forwards points from play were by no means easy scores as he dazzled the Pairc Ui Chaoimh spectators, something which they have become accustomed to since his debut.
Limerick will have to think long and hard about their strategy to stop Horgan next weekend. Last summer a combination of Sean Finn and Mike Casey locked down the sharpshooter who still amassed 1-11 (1-3 from play).
Last summer Limerick played Cork twice and didn’t come away with victory inside the 70m minutes of normal time on either occasion with a wounded Cork with a fully focused Horgan a very dangerous proposition for Kiely’s men.