Jamesie O'Connor says he's expecting Limerick to claim a third All-Ireland hurling title in four years this Sunday, but says the future is bright for Cork, regardless of the outcome.
The Rebels were beaten by eight points when the sides met in the Munster semi final in Thurles in July, but rallied through the qualifiers, seeing off Clare, Dublin and Kilkenny to book their place in a first All-Ireland final since 2013.
Two-time All-Ireland winner with Clare Jamesie O'Connor and former Wexford hurler Diarmuid Gizzy Lyng joined Joe Molloy on Wednesday nights OTB to preview this Sunday's final, and while O'Connor concedes it's hard to look beyond Limerick, he says Cork's return to form at underage level shows that there's a new force emerging which could be ready to stand toe to toe with Limerick in the coming years.
"That tradition is there, and it does count for something and there is a real feeling with the minors and the U20s that the Rebels are moving again.
"I've said this for a couple of years that there is a sea of young hurlers and young talent coming in Cork and they've got their act together. And they did that with the numbers they have, and with the resources they have. It's bad news for the rest of us in Munster," O'Connor said.
Looking ahead to the game itself, O'Connor said that the Rebels will need to make huge improvements from their provincial semi final defeat, pointing out how Limerick have improved further since that game.
"There's that massive appetite and rising tide behind them, but they're going to have to be better than they were when they met in the Munster semi final. They still have a good bit of ground to make up, there were 8 points in it and Limerick shot the guts of 20 wides, had four of their starting six forwards taken off, Morrissey didn't play well, Hegarty didn't play well, Gillane was taken off, Flanagan was taken off and still the game was probably over by half time. Cork never really looked like reeling them in after those two goals they got just before they got before the interval.
"Cork are definitely better, but you could argue that Limerick are better as well. Tom Morrissey was excellent the last day with five pints from play, Gillane is in a rich vein of form, Flanagan has been playing well and Gearoid Hegarty, you'd imagine he'll want to be better than he was in that semi final.
"The hope we all have is that Cork will bring something different, that they won't try take on Limerick physically, because they don't have the players to do it, I don't think anybody has the players, the physicality to take Limerick on playing Limerick's game.
"Cork have a chance by trying to play Cork's game, by trying to get the ball to the pacey forwards that they have. That's easier said than done, because Limerick are so good at playing the game on their terms and doing what they do and imposing their will on you. That's going to be the challenge for Cork.
"You'd imagine that they (Cork) will bring something different, and if they can get that running game going and get the ball into the hands of Patrick Horgan and Jack O'Connor, and do a better job of it than the last time they met, they'll think they have a chance, he added.