Jack Neville: Cork cannot be underestimated in Munster semi-final

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THE stage has been set for John Kiely and his Limerick charges as they embark on a historic championship later this year with Cork awaiting the defending Munster and All-Ireland champions in the provincial semi-final.

On the other side of the draw, Tipperary meet the winners of Clare and Waterford in the Munster semi-final.

The Shannonsiders will be looking to become the first team from the county since the 1930’s to claim three successive provincial titles as they seek to add to their 2019 and 2020 triumphs.

30 June 2019; Limerick captain Declan Hannon with the cup after the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Limerick and Tipperary at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Limerick will no doubt be favoured for the game given their exploits since Kiely’s appointment, but they will be under no illusion of the threat that Cork pose.

The Rebels have proved somewhat of a bogey team to Limerick in recent years with the Treaty men claiming just two victories over the Leesiders in Munster since the turn of the century.

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In Limerick’s first championship game after ending their 45-year wait for All-Ireland honours, Cork were comfortable winners at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in their 2019 Munster championship clash.

The previous summer, Cork let a seemingly unassailable lead slip against the Shannonsiders in the All-Ireland semi-final before eventually succumbing to Kiely’s side. History will tell us Limerick went on to earn All-Ireland honours but that defeat will still leave a sour taste in the mouth of the Cork contingent.

Earlier in 2018, the sides played out a dramatic draw in the revamped Pairc Ui Chaoimh with Kyle Hayes’ last gasp point enough to secure the share of the spoils for Limerick.

Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 3, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork 2/6/2018
Cork vs Limerick
Limerick’s Kyle Hayes celebrates scoring a late point to equalise the game and
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Indeed, you have to go back eight years for Limerick’s last win over Cork in the Munster championship. That win ended a 17 year wait for Munster honours for Limerick but could have been so much different had Patrick Horgan not seen red on the stroke of half time with the sides perfectly poised at 0-10 apiece.

That win also came 12 months previous to the 2014 decider where Cork avenged the defeat in a 2-24 to 0-24 win at the old Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

While the vast majority of the squad have beaten all before them, Declan Hannon, Nickie Quaid and Graeme Mulcahy are the only members of the side with experience of beating the Rebels in the Munster championship. Conversely, the majority of the Rebels know what it takes to defeat the defending All-Ireland champions.

This is likely to count for little Kiely’s squad of trailblazers but in these type of high profile championship games, history will point favourably towards Kieran Kingston’s men.

Cork’s form over the past couple of years has been patchy at best but were it not for the collapse against Limerick in 2018, there is every chance that they would have claimed the Liam MacCarthy that August.

Nonetheless, Cork will face Limerick with a bravado despite Limerick’s lofty recent achievements.

Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 2, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick 19/5/2019
Limerick vs Cork
Cork’s Patrick Horgan scoring his sides first goal
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Self-confidence is rarely an issue on the banks of the Lee and Kingston will have more than ample motivation after a lacklustre 2020 saw Cork bow out of the championship after losses to Waterford and Tipperary with just a solitary win over a poor Dublin team to show for their efforts.

The Munster championship wins in 2017 and 2018 have provided some breathing room for Cork but their 15 year All-Ireland famine will certainly be eating at them.

That win in 2005 saw them move two clear of Kilkenny at the top of the All-Ireland roll of honour. Now they trail the Cats by six with Kilkenny, Tipperary and Limerick accounting for 13 titles in that time.

And that will make the Rebels all the more dangerous.

Limerick are the team to beat and they will know that. How they fare with the expectations will be key with the Rebels the perfect acid test.

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