The Leinster and Munster hurling finals are on the one day, back-to-back, at the end of the month.

Sunday, 30 June should be one of the biggest dates in hurling’s calendar, maybe the biggest outside of the All-Ireland final weekend.

That isn’t the case though and the provincial finals have been surpassed by the final weekend of the two provincial round-robin championships.

The fact that there are eight teams involved, all of them with something to play for, means that this is as exciting as it gets.

After Limerick’s run last year when qualifying as the third team in the province, is that the best starting point from which to launch an All-Ireland bid?

In Leinster, all four teams in action can make the All-Ireland knock-out stages and all four can miss out. In Munster, only Tipperary are assured of extending their summer, with Cork, Limerick and Clare all in action and all in contention.

Dublin and Galway go head-to-head at Parnell Park

The Leinster games on Saturday evening, and Munster on Sunday afternoon, are must-watch for any serious sports fan, days for one game on the television and one on the phone or, for the the traditionalists, on the wireless.

This is also a bigger weekend for teams and players than the provincial final weekend.

Making sure that they reach the All-Ireland series, whether that's via an All-Ireland semi-final, quarter-final or preliminary quarter-final is the most important thing in the round-robin stage.

The top two teams in each province go into the provincial final and the winners of that go into the All-Ireland semi-finals, with the loser to the quarters. The third place team goes into the preliminary quarter and takes on one of the Joe McDonagh finalists.

For All-Ireland champions Limerick, finishing third last year proved to be the best way to go, as Christy O’Connor pointed out in his RTÉ.ie column earlier in the week.

It's all to play for between Clare and Cork

"After Limerick’s run last year when qualifying as the third team in the province, is that the best starting point from which to launch an All-Ireland bid?" he asked.

"Given the mileage on Tipperary’s legs, they will want to go through the front door by winning a Munster title.

"Yet that would still leave a four-week gap to an All-Ireland semi-final, a hurdle which Munster champions have consistently struggled to negotiate."

Cork have won the last two Munster Championships but haven't gone on to reach the All-Ireland final

Reaching a Leinster or Munster final means playing a team for the second time in six weeks with the possibility of facing them again later in the summer.

The motivation of winning a provincial title is huge, of course, and all medals are treasured by players, but the lure is waning.

Lose the final and you are dumped into a quarter-final trying to gain back the ground you lost in defeat and at the same time taking on a side who have slid in largely under the radar and have, in all probability, a relatively routine win in the preliminary round under their belts.

Win your province, and there’s that four-week break. A bit of time off following a punishing provincial schedule is no bad thing, but a month without a competitive match can see rust grow on even the most well-oiled parts of the machine.

Making the provincial final is no longer the be-all and end-all. That’s why this weekend is the most important in hurling until the real knock-out stuff beings.