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6 talking points after a madcap Munster senior hurling weekend

Dramatic draws in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Gaelic Grounds leave a lot still up for grabs.

pjimage (1) Cork, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford were all involved in pulsating encounters. Source: INPHO

1. Impact of Gaelic Grounds goal controversy

The consensus quickly formed that Waterford were the victims of an injustice in Limerick yesterday but their camp afterwards opted not to fan the flames of the controversy that ensued with the awarding of Tipperary’s second goal. Derek McGrath sought to shift Waterford’s focus to their return trip to the Gaelic Grounds next Sunday and it was an admirable approach.

But the dubious goal may rear up again when the dust settles at the close of the Munster round-robin format. Will Waterford miss out by a narrow margin on one of the coveted top three spots and forced to rue not triumphing yesterday? And how precious will that point be for Tipperary as the draw ensured their pulse is still beating in the 2018 championship?

Derek McGrath and Michael Ryan after the game Derek McGrath and Michael Ryan after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Character at heart of Tipperary’s comebacks

Michael Ryan hasn’t needed much prompting in his post-match deliberations of late to admit his team need to brush up on their hurling. Tipperary’s opening slumps have been striking – nine points down at the break against Cork, trailing by six at half-time against Waterford and staring at an 11-point deficit in the 54th minute against the Deise.

They’ve been lacking a spark in their play but just when their challenge is listing dangerously, something seems to stir in the Tipperary camp. They were the beneficiaries of a major umpire blunder yesterday yet did produce a storming finale, typified by how Brendan Maher charged into the game, Seamus Callanan’s perseverance in attack and the impact made by substitutes Cathal Barrett, Patrick Maher and Jake Morris.

There was an air of desperation to their play as they went hunting for an end product as Tipperary refused to quit and bagged a second successive draw. Their form is still clearly flawed but at least Ryan can count on the spirit in his squad remaining intact.

3. Limerick’s youngsters announce themselves

Operating away from the spotlight in the second tier of the league, Limerick were quietly building from the outset of 2018. They posted an early statement with their victory over Tipperary but given the impoverished nature of the Premier showing that day, Saturday’s result in Cork felt more substantial, considering Limerick lost their captain to injury and chief free-taker to a red card in the first half alone.

The turnover in the Limerick starting side is striking when you consider they had only three survivors on Saturday – Nickie Quaid, Declan Hannon and Graeme Mulcahy – from the team that started the Munster final loss in Páirc Uí Chaoimh four years ago. But their performance level did not dip as they were powered on by some terrific individual displays.

2017 All-Ireland U21 winning captain Tom Morrissey, 2016 All-Ireland minor final captain Kyle Hayes and Seamus Flanagan, still eligible for U21 this year, were all excellent. Cian Lynch is a relative veteran with the experience of four campaigns behind him and yet he is only just out of the U21 grade this season. Limerick didn’t triumph but the contribution of their emerging players will fuel their hopes for the summer ahead.

Kyle Hayes celebrates scoring a late point Kyle Hayes celebrates scoring a late point for Limerick. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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4. Cork still unbeaten yet carry regrets

If Cork had been presented with a pre-championship scenario of being top of the table after three rounds and still unbeaten, they would have gleefully snapped it up. But the manner of their last two games has left a lingering sense that their position could be healthier. They’re still in pole position for a Munster final place as they seek a win over Waterford on 17 June yet could have that spot wrapped up by now.

The draw against Tipperary has been dominated by talk of their nine-point half-time advantage slipping away but they were three up in the closing minutes after seemingly weathering the storm and could not protect that position. The problem for Cork against Limerick lay in how to exploit their personnel advantage in the second half, they coughed up too many scores as their passing game broke down when they were channelling possession out of defence.

Darragh Fitzgibbon continues to be a joy to watch for Cork at midfield while Patrick Horgan produced another of his prolific displays in chalking up 1-11 on Saturday night. A third punishing outing in 13 days can explain some of their difficulties but they need to be more clinical when in the driving seat if their summer is to be prolonged.

Darragh Fitzgibbon Cork midfielder Darragh Fitzgibbon. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Depleted Waterford fight on

Waterford ran out in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday with eight of last September’s All-Ireland final team, albeit Conor Gleeson would have began that game only for suspension. They were still severely depleted for this clash with Tipperary and while Noel Connors, Austin Gleeson and Pauric Mahony were pressed into action, they hadn’t exactly undergone a smooth build-up given their injury travails.

However Waterford summoned something within themselves, overcoming the adversity to shine at the scene of their torrid afternoon against Tipperary in the 2016 Munster final. They didn’t come away with the full spoils, cursed by that second Tipperary goal being awarded and powerless to repress ‘the storm’ from their opponents as Derek McGrath put it afterwards.

Yet they’re still fighting and still have a foothold in the Munster championship. That’s something they will grasp onto.

The Waterford team huddle The Waterford team before yesterday's game at the Gaelic Grounds. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

6. Draws leave everything up for grabs

Three draws served up in the space of seven days in the Munster hurling championship offers proof of the intense competitiveness and the wild excitement that has been on show. That’s the same number of draws that occurred in the previous nine campaigns, all incidentally involving Waterford – in 2014 v Cork, 2010 v Cork and 2009 v Limerick.

The permutations are too complex to entirely untangle with each of the five counties still in control of their own destiny. But Tipperary are in need of a victory next Sunday against Clare as it is their last game and no other result will suffice while Waterford’s predicament is similar as they take on Limerick with only one point to their name so far. Plenty at stake then.

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Fintan O'Toole

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