It’s that time of year again, time to dust off Old Moore’s Almanack and see who is going to win this year’s Munster championship. Or we could try something useful like applying logic and reason. Er, Old Moore’s Almanack it is then.
Waterford have once again gotten the easy half of the draw – not as easy as if we had had the same draw as 2009, but we’ll get back to that in a moment. That’s no disrespect to Clare who will also be relieved for any draw which puts them in the opposite half to Tipperary and Cork. The Championship throws in with the clash of the heavyweights for the second year running, and it looks like the gap is closing. Cork are certainly far better off than they were after 2009’s truncated League campaign. There must be some concern that they still seem to relying heavily on hardy annuals like John Gardner, Tom Kenny, Ronan Curran, the O’Connors and the Ógs. But if they’re still able to perform, why worry too much? They definitely had a much better League than Tipperary, and it is precisely because people will say Tipp decided to experiment during the League that I am of the opinion that Cork have the beating of them. That ‘experimentation’ reflects an uncertainty in their ranks that wasn’t there last year, uncertainty generated by the appalling manner of defeat in last year’s All-Ireland final. If they were playing Waterford, Clare or Limerick, it wouldn’t matter. But Cork will be all over such emotional fragility like a piranha over a cow. So, much to the chagrin of those of us who want Team GPA to crash and burn, Cork to win.
Then there’s the semi-final against Limerick. Enjoy rubber-necking a car crash on the motorway? Then this is the game for you.
Waterford and Clare clash in the other half of the draw, a match which is infuriatingly taking place on the June bank holiday thus ensuring my non-attendance due to work commitments. It’s not a bad idea though as it should be the focus of media attention on a slow news day. A day will arrive when a match between Waterford and Clare is not viewed through the prism of the events of 1998 but today is not going to be that day, even if the only reference is to say that it doesn’t matter any more. As noted at the time of Clare’s win in the Munster Under-21 final last year, it’s good to be over that particular hump. Clare can be justifiably aggrieved at how the League panned out, topping Division Two ending up counting for nothing as Wexford, fresh from losing to Carlow, caught them on the hop in the final. It’s surely too early to be asking anything of the players who so thrillingly won the Under-21 All-Ireland but that won’t stop it being asked. You’ve got to think that it is too early and a Waterford team that had a decent if uninspiring League campaign will be good enough to win.
So that would lead us back to yet another Munster final and yet another showdown with Cork. After the Frazier-Ali repetitiveness of the fixture in the Noughties a few years of absence has made the heart grow slightly fonder, much as a Champions League match between Liverpool and Chelsea sounds appealing now that we can’t have one. Having bigged up Cork in order to justify suggesting they can gun down the primary pretenders to Kilkenny’s crown, now it’s time to cut them down to size. While Tipp may be a little nervous facing into their first game aprés September 6, Waterford should have no such qualms. It’s going to be close against Cork. It always is (ker-ching! Another payment from refertohowclosewaterfordandcorkgamesare.com). And once Michael Walsh, Tony Browne, John Mullane, Maurice Shanahan and – takes deep breath and crosses fingers – Ken McGrath are added back in to the mix from the team that played Cork in the League, we can take them. Wow, another Munster title. How easy was that?
Does it matter, winning a diminished Munster Cup? If ever there was any doubt, doing the results archive has extinguished them. Of the fifty-three contests against Cork in the Championship, we’ve lost forty-one. Anyone who would turn their nose up at lucky number thirteen just because it’s not in September needs go and watch the Blues to be reminded of what it is like to not be able to win anything. Knew it had its uses.