By the time Monday morning comes around, the road to Liam MaCarthy Cup glory will have become much straighter, and we will know who is still on the road.
On Saturday evening, a Semple Stadium double header sees Tipperary take on Dublin and Kilkenny clash with Waterford in the qualifiers for places in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. All roads lead to Thurles again on Sunday afternoon for the Munster final, where Cork take on Clare.
Ahead of the Cats clash with the Déise, nine-time All-Ireland winner for the black and amber, Jackie Tyrrell has shared his thoughts on the upcoming crunch match in his Irish Times column.
Although the general narrative heading into this huge game is that it will be a tight affair, with it being difficult to pick a winner, Tyrrell states his belief that Waterford have a slight advantage over Kilkenny.
The James Stephens club hurler recognises that both counties have their issues, they wouldn’t be in the qualifiers if they didn’t, but that Derek McGrath’s side will find it easier to solve the problems they have in their play than Brian Cody and co. will.
According to the former corner-back, if McGrath can sort a set game plan and stick with it, instead of falling between using a sweeper system or the traditional 15 v 15, as well as deploying Austin Gleeson as an out-and-out centre-forward, the Déise will have gone a long way to correcting the wrongs of their defeat to Cork in Munster.
“Waterford look to me to be in a similar dilemma to where they were after their drawn All-Ireland semi-final last year against Kilkenny. What’s their game plan going to be? Do they stick or twist? Sweeper or 15-on-15?
“Above all, what do they do with Austin Gleeson?”
It is a question on everyone’s mind following the Hurler of The Year’s subdued performance the last day out, when he was substituted against Cork.
“If it was me, I’d have him playing as a centre-forward and tell him to stay in the opposition half of the pitch,” writes Tyrrell.
“Keep him at 11, keep Maurice Shanahan at 14 and fit the rest of the team in around them. If they do that and play with some boldness, they have a big chance here.”
On the other hand, the problems for Kilkenny are more deep rooted and not as easily resolved. They need to start finding scores from somewhere, and fast. If they don’t, this could be one short summer for the Noresiders.
“I think Kilkenny are in a good place from one to nine. But they need so much more from their forwards.
“Walter Walsh and TJ Reid played their part last weekend, but they need a much greater contribution from Richie Hogan, Ger Aylward, Colin Fennelly and co.”
The burden must be taken up by someone in that forward unit on Saturday night if they are to advance to the All-Ireland series.
“They need one of them to start scoring heavily,” says Tyrrell.
So, how does the four-time All Star see the second part of Saturday night’s mouthwatering double header panning out?
“I make Waterford slight favourites on the basis that their problem against Cork was that they underperformed.
“In general, Kilkenny have more issues than Waterford.”
Loyalties to his ex-teammates aside for Tyrrell. Whatever the result may be in Thurles this weekend, it is sure to be a cracking game of championship hurling.
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