Donal Óg Cusack is tipping Tipperary to win this weekend's Munster final, but he’s keen to stress that defeat doesn’t spell the end of the loser’s season.
Tipp take on Limerick at a packed LIT Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, a repeat of their provincial round-robin group meeting earlier in June, which the Premier County won against weakened opposition.
Cusack, speaking on the latest episode of the RTÉ GAA Podcast, insists that whoever wins in this contest will still have a big say in the destination of the Liam MacCarthy Cup this year.
"I think Tipperary have better hurlers when it comes down to it. Ultimately I’m going for a Tipperary win on Sunday," he said, while also picking Wexford to beat Kilkenny in the Leinster final.
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Speaking about the potential impact of defeat, he said: "A lot of it comes down to timing and how teams will respond to it. Once it’s not fatal, losing can be a great educator.
"I remember from my own experience, we lost a big Munster final in 2004 to Waterford after they were down to 14 men just after half-time.
"We lost that game and it was a big blow to us, but looking back on that season it was the kick in the backside that we needed. Maybe you’d prefer that it comes at a different time than a Munster final, but it came at a time that gave us a chance to get back.
"We were drawn against Tipperary in the next round and nothing focuses a Cork mind more than hurling against Tipperary.
"We did a lot of soul searching after that game and it set us up for the rest of the season.
"If you’re looking at how it’s going to pan out, if Tipp win the Munster final, they’re going to be playing the winners of Cork and Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final. Wexford on the other side will be playing the winners of Dublin and Limerick."
Listen to the RTÉ GAA Podcast at Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Cork and Dublin play the Joe McDonagh Cup finalists in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals on the weekend of 6/7 July. If, as expected, they come through those ties, Cork take on the Leinster lose and Dublin the beaten Munster finalists in the quarter-final.
One of the big tasks awaiting Wexford at the weekend will be shackling TJ Reid again.
They held Kilkenny's main attacking threat scoreless from play when they met in the Leinster round-robin group and they will do well to do it again.
"They did a great job on TJ the last day and obviously the system they play involves crowding out that middle third," said Cusack.
"The idea of having extra bodies around that space and a man-marker like Matthew Hanlon, you'd imagine that’s the way Wexford will approach the game.
"The way the game is going most teams are bringing back extra men and forwards are getting more used to extra defenders. The way Wexford are playing is testament to that.
"It took them a while to get used to it, but you can see how well they are bypassing the sweeper on the other side now. That’s important because if Davy does play like that, you’re going to have Padraig Walsh on the other side playing the exact same role."
Follow the Munster and Leinster hurling finals via our live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app or listen to live national commentary on RTÉ Radio 1. You can watch live and exclusive TV coverage of Limerick v Tipperary (2pm) and Kilkenny v Wexford (4pm) on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player this Sunday.
On Saturday evening you can tune into RTÉ Radio 1 or RnaG for live coverage of all four All-Ireland SFC qualifier games which you can also follow via our live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app