Kilkenny will not strike a ball in the 2014 hurling championship until Saturday, but there has been lots of action in Leinster and Munster, writes Nickey Brennan.
Waterford and Cork return to Semple Stadium on Sunday with the winner facing Clare in the Munster semi-final. The Déise left Thurles recently feeling they had left the game behind them. I suspect that most people would probably agree.
Cork remain the favourites. They will be expected to deliver a much better performance. The Rebels looked lethargic and lacked passion in the drawn tie.
It is worth noting that Waterford went in that game missing many players through injuries and suspension. Shane Sullivan and Stephen Molumphy should be available again, and their experience will be a big help.
I was surprised in the week leading up to the first game to read of a Cork selector demanding that his side be shown greater respect. I heard the same utterances last week from the Limerick camp.
I am curious. Respect is earned on the field. After the drawn tie it is Cork who must step up to the plate now. Not for the first time Patrick Horgan came up with impressive second half scores but, in truth, it was some naïve play in the closing minutes from a couple of Déise players which cost Waterford victory.
Waterford’s confidence will be high after the drawn game. The pressure is back on Cork to deliver. Manager Jimmy Barry Murphy must rethink the composition of his team as some of his players showed little appetite for hard work for much of the drawn tie.
Despite their below-par performance then, I expect Cork to come good at the second attempt.
It hardly helped Laois and Antrim as they prepared for Sunday’s games against Galway and Wexford respectively to hear their respective managers, Seamus Plunkett and Kevin Ryan bemoaning the structure of the championship and having to play so many games in successive weeks.
It would have been better if their comments were left until after the games. Both teams had performed very well in the Leinster round-robin series, so confidence would have been high.
The first game in Portlaoise on Sunday saw Wexford score a highly impressive win over Antrim. Although the Model County is fielding a young side, confident vibes have been emerging.
Their ability to score goals was decisive. They head into a Leinster semi-final against Dublin in confident mood.
The big win will also be a boost to those players who will line out against Kilkenny in the Leinster under-21 championship in Nowlan Park this evening (Wednesday).
Finishes do not come any more dramatic than the Galway versus Laois tie on Sunday. One has to feel for Laois after coming so close to causing a big upset again.
Moral victories are no use to Laois any more. They will be devastated with the result. They were the better side.
Galway remains an enigma. On Sunday they had to dig deep to overcome gallant Laois. That took character. They had to survive a late penalty from Laois when a goal would have won the game for the home side.
Down the road in Semple Stadium the finale to the Limerick versus Tipperary game was no less exciting.
When it came to digging deep in the game it was Limerick who provided the answers.
When the Shannonsiders had a perfectly good goal disallowed it appeared as if their Munster title had disappeared. Tipperary should have capitalised and had enough chances to do so.
But when leaders were required in the crucial closing minutes it was the men in green who stood up manfully to the challenge.
Last year delivered hurling performances to savour. This year is already shaping up to match the best from 2013.