It has all the ingredients to be a thrilling conclusion to the All-Ireland Hurling Championship. Four sides remain in the hunt for glory, with Cork, Clare, Limerick and Dublin vying for the title.
Following tournament favourites Kilkenny’s shock departure, this collection of semi-fancied teams and underdogs suddenly have a real shot of re-entering the history books.
Sunday August 11 2013—Dublin vs. Cork, Croke Park. KO: 3.30 p.m. BST/ 10.30 a.m. ET
Sunday August 18 2013—Limerick vs. Clare, Croke Park. KO: 3.30 p.m. BST/ 10.30 a.m. ET
It has been six years since any of these sides last made a final, with Limerick falling at the final hurdle to Kilkenny.
Kilkenny have forged a reputation over the last decade as one of the most formidable hurling sides of all time—they’ve won six of the last seven All-Ireland Championships—but this year it’s the turn of the lesser teams.
Cork are now favourites to go all the way after doing the hard part in the quarter-finals and knocking out Kilkenny. But they have a young side, and with Croke Park expected to be packed for their clash with Dublin, nerves are bound to be a factor.
A glance at Cork’s history tell its own story—their success comes in bursts. Given that many of the side that beat Kilkenny had barely started their senior careers, 2013 may be remembered as the year Cork established themselves as contenders again.
To progress to the final they must overcome a Dublin side whose last title predates the Second World War.
The capital club boasts a poor return of six wins from 20 finals, but this season represents an opportunity for them to improve that statistic. If they can somehow find a way to upset new favourites Cork then they would have every opportunity in the final.
Clare and Limerick meet next week to decide the other final spot. Neither side has prospered in recent years, although they have both made finals since the turn of the millennium, and opportunities to win with Kilkenny knocking about are extremely rare.
For those unfamiliar with hurling, it’s just about as frantic as sport gets. Imagine hurtling around a field, balancing a ball on a wooden stick, as opponents charge across you and try to nick possession.
To score you can either hit the ball past a brave goalkeeper guarding a football-style goal or shoot high between posts above the goal frame.