Lar Corbett: Why Cork needs to prove a point after near misses

A fast start to the Championship by Rebels could inspire confidence, but Waterford will be a tough nut to crack, that’s for sure

That small margin of failure will have eaten away at them over the winter.

Their 2022 season, meanwhile, ended in the quarter-finals again with a one-point defeat to Galway.

Winning those close games requires small, marginal improvement when the pressure is at its highest. If Cork can sort that out they will suddenly be at the top and in contention for the Munster final heading to Croker.

They are a successful hurling region but have been without success for 19 years, despite gifted players and a proud tradition. Their squad is supplemented by players from three of the last four All-Ireland under-20 winning teams.

For three years we expected Cork to be the next team to take on Limerick.

We wanted to see a different animal appear in 2024, but it was more of the same during the first three rounds of the competition.

Before the Offaly match they did a training weekend in Gallarus, West Kerry, followed by a blast in and around Dingle. It worked. In the second half of the competition they scored freely, with Alan Connolly scoring six goals.

This brings confidence and form. As championship time approaches, if I wasn’t in shape I would go to the club’s junior training on Monday evening.

Before the training game, I went to socialize with the cornerback who had had a rough weekend. You could fill your shoe with goals and the boys didn’t mind that so much. When you leave the gate you feel great. Confidence was back.

What Pat Ryan needs to do now is make sure the players play well in training and in the two league games. Play the men’s form.

Cork also need to speed up the play from the middle third and deliver a quicker ball to the inside forward line as they run into space.

Waterford manager Davy Fitzgerald has his strongest team in two years. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportfile

Waterford, their opponents today, have their strongest team for two years. Davy has consistently said that if they get everyone back they will be good. Waterford had chances to beat Limerick last year, but hit wide from good scoring positions in the final quarter.

That was the beginning of the end for them, Limerick got away with it and won everything.

Today’s match will come down to whoever takes the most important scoring opportunities. That in turn comes down to the confidence and form of the key players. Kurk seems to have that edge. Expect them to start with a win.

The other team that plays with their strongest team for a year is Dublin. They had a poor league campaign but with players returning, they recently led an all-Limerick team all the way in a challenge game.

Dublin and Wexford could be the match of the weekend as a win for both sets them up for the year. However, do not include this in your battery. A draw is a likely outcome.

Elsewhere, Kilkenny and Galway will look to do their bit with wins to set them up for their clash next week. That leaves us with the match that will determine the direction of the year for everyone: Clare v Limerick at Cusack Park.

We analyzed this last week, so it’s time to pick a winner. Clare just has to do it. The ability, experience, age profile and management team, together with the home location, indicate that this is their time.

It is now or never. Limerick dodged several bullets in Munster last year. But today I’m going with Clare to inflict an early wound.

Elsewhere in the GAA world, Jarlath Burns has made a brilliant start to his three-year tenure. He opened the door for the All-Irelands to return to September if all fixtures could be streamlined into the calendar year.

On one side of the debate, the media and inter-provincial managers want the inter-provincial season to be extended because it is currently too compact and ends in July.

On the other hand, the players love what we have because they know which team they are going to play for and when. The district authorities know that they can organize their club competitions with certainty every year.

Trying to run club and county at the same time just didn’t work as the inter-county game became all-consuming. Club matches were collateral damage.

So it’s a matter of which competitions are played at what time of year, rather than keeping the club and provincial competitions separate.

In a province with nine championship rounds and two codes, it takes 18 weeks to complete.

If the All-Irelands move to September, the provincial finals will have to be moved to December. The split season as we have it is a blunt instrument, but it works.

Kerry’s Stephen O’Brien said this week: ‘I think it’s much better. Previously you didn’t know where you really were, so it’s nice to just focus on Kerry at the moment and when you return to Kenmare later in the year you can focus your attention there.

There are two weeks between the championship games, last year we only had to play once on consecutive weekends. That is really perfect.”

I agree 100 percent. We also seem to be good at remembering huge crowds and beautiful weather for matches in August and September. The Liam MacCarthy is currently played from late April to July. Isn’t that summer too?

It’s not the GAA’s fault that the weather is bad and personally I can’t remember needing sunscreen too often in September.

Whatever the answer, let’s not forget the voices of the players and the clubs in this debate.

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