Cork take on Waterford this Sunday in the last of their Munster SHC round-robin games, having had a break last week, but Rebel manager John Meyler admits he “missed the buzz” of a game, having been in action for the previous three weeks in a row.
Meyler went to check out Kilkenny-Wexford in the Leinster championship last weekend and, based on Wexford’s performance in the first three quarters of that game, he wondered if Cork would have been better off playing rather than having a break.
“We’ve had three tough games in a row, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, but going back to last Saturday evening in Kilkenny, I was there to watch the match and I missed the buzz of the game, to be honest. You get used to it.
“And that evening Wexford were playing a fourth game in a row, but they were absolutely flying it, 11 points up midway through the second half. I was watching that and thinking: ‘Would we be better off to have played again this weekend?’
“Then, Kilkenny came back hard at them. Now, they’d had a break, of course, three weeks on and one week off, and they drove into it. Wexford really shouldn’t have given up an 11-point lead, but they built that lead in their fourth game in a row.
“Waterford are out this weekend for the fourth time in a row, their hurling will be very sharp and their fitness levels are good, we need to get into the game quickly and hit the ground running, so that’d be a worry from our point of view, we need to get going immediately.
“We have to concentrate on ourselves and look at ourselves. We need to get an improvement on the performance against Limerick and to carry that on the next day.
“We can’t focus on Waterford’s situation. There have been fantastic Cork-Waterford games over the last few years and I’d be expecting nothing different this weekend. They have very talented players, and they’re not going to Thurles to lie down.”
Waterford have nothing to play for, having been eliminated from the Munster championship by Limerick last Sunday, joining Tipperary.
“I’m not surprised they’re gone, in that we all knew the rules before they started: That come June 20, two teams would be gone. Everybody knew that, and it happens to be Tipperary and Waterford.
“If it were Cork and Clare or Cork and Limerick, it’d be a similar situation. We all knew it was going to be highly competitive and highly entertaining and that’s how it’s turned out. There have been incredible matches.
“I don’t want to say ‘the best Munster championship of all time’, but it’s shown off some of the best hurling, the best scores, excitement, big crowds.
“Everything points in the direction of an incredible Munster championship, so far, in terms of scores, competitive games, crowds, and finishing off with Clare v Limerick in a jam-packed Cusack Park… it’s been brilliant, I think.”
Based on Dublin’s displays in Leinster, Meyler doesn’t feel the eastern province has been less competitive than Munster.
“No, Dublin lost two matches to Wexford and Kilkenny by just a point or two, they were ahead in those games and had chances to win, both in Parnell Park and Wexford Park. They were just a score or two away from qualifying.
“OK, Offaly lost their four games, but Dublin were very close, I’d say [Dublin management] Pat Gilroy and Anthony Cunningham would be very frustrated, because they were very close to a quarter-final stage.”
As for Cork, their focus is on Waterford this Sunday, not the identity of potential Munster final opponents.
“The objective is to beat Waterford and get into a Munster final, not to be thinking about what’s going on in Ennis between Clare and Limerick,” says Meyler.
“You could see how that can play out last weekend in the Gaelic Grounds: As that game was going on, everyone around you was saying, ‘oh Tipp are three up against Clare in Thurles’, or whatever.
“We have to concentrate on the job at hand, to try to beat Waterford and then see what’s next.
“That’s all we’ve done all year, to focus on ourselves and our objectives, on improving, and I think we’ve done that over the three games, that we’ve improved.
“We’ve made mistakes, but we’re trying to cut those out, obviously.”
Meyler confirmed that Robbie O’Flynn is expected to be cleared for action this weekend, having picked up a head injury in the championship opener against Clare.