OPINION: Munster Hurling needs a good contest between Tipperary and Cork

The provincial rivals will face off this Sunday

OPINION: Munster Hurling needs a good contest between Tipperary and Cork

©INPHO/Ken Sutton

The Munster senior hurling championship commences this weekend with Cork and Tipperary contesting the opening game.

On paper, this is the most competitive hurling province. And this is a fixture that, ordinarily, would generate intrigue and inconclusive debates about the outcome. But something has been missing in this competition in recent years.

There is anticipation surrounding the fixture for sure, but the kind of excitement that has long been synonymous with Munster hurling, has dissipated over time. We need that electric atmosphere to return. Badly.

Tipperary - the reigning All-Ireland champions - go into this fixture following a humiliating defeat to Galway in the National League final. Although it wasn't the ideal way to conclude their league, Michael Ryan's side won't be discouraged by that result and the Munster championship is competition where they can thrive again. 

Meanwhile, Cork hurling looks to be in a healthy condition following a gradual rebuilding process which has made them competitive again. An impressive Munster hurling league was followed by a strong National League campaign which culminated in a second place finish in Division 1A. 

They finally bowed out to Limerick at the quarter-final stage, but they also registered a crucial victory over Tipperary along the way.

In essence, the stage is set for a compelling contest between the sides this weekend. Speaking on Off The Ball during the week, Tipperary legend Tommy Dunne said that Cork is a team that always incites fear in Tipperary when it comes to the Munster championship.

"There's an inbuilt fear in Tipp all the time, that Cork can come with a relatively unknown thing and do a job on ya," he told Ger Gilroy on the show.

But, local rivalries aside, will we get the spectacle to compliment the build-up?

We need games that will recreate the way we interacted with Clare and Tipperary's grudge matches in the 90's. We need games to match Cork's absorbing rivalry with Waterford in the 00's.

We need a Munster championship that reminds us of why we put this competition on a pedestal in the first place.

Image: Cork hurling legend Ben O'Connor being chased by Waterford's Eoin Kelly in the 2004 Munster Hurling final. Picture Credit - ©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan.

Last year's provincial competition culminated in a final where Tipperary tore Waterford to ribbons in a 5-19 to 0-13 washout. Indeed, Waterford are not 21 points worse than Tipperary, and they pushed Kilkenny to within inches of bringing their All-Ireland semi-final replay to extra-time later in the summer.

But on the biggest day in the Munster hurling championship calendar, they inexplicably imploded. It was largely a forgettable competition, and the final game was testament to that.

Even the corresponding fixture between Cork and Tipperary last year threw up a dismal 0-22 0-13 scoreline in Tipp's favour. 

Cork's attempt at implementing a sweeper was drowned out by Tipperary's scoring power on a soggy day in Semple Stadium. You can read more about the mechanics of that systematic failure in Shane Stapleton's column on Newstalk.com.

After that game established a flat tone for the competition, the rounds that followed did little to lift the tempo. Waterford avenged for the league final defeat with a win over a poor Clare side and Tipperary had enough to outclass Limerick in the semi-final despite playing most of the game with 14 men.

Just like they opened the tournament in 2016, Tipperary and Cork have an opportunity to breathe life back into Munster hurling again this weekend. 

We just want the games to be memorable again. Is that too much to ask?