'Draw from hell' but Moran banking on youth policy to revive Limerick
WHEN Limerick outscored Tipperary by 0-5 to 0-0 in the final minutes of extra-time to secure victory in a remarkable Munster SHC semi-final second replay in 2007, nobody in the 30,608 crowd at the Gaelic Grounds could have anticipated the contrasting direction the counties' fortunes would take over the coming years.
All the more so when Limerick later qualified for the All-Ireland final where, admittedly, they were well beaten by Kilkenny.
Tipperary's regeneration began a year later, whereas Limerick headed into a tailspin, powered by internal combustion which ultimately led to a crash landing in 2010 when they were forced to field a second-rate squad after a walkout by most of the headline acts.
Limerick relaunched last year but will still be searching for their first win in the Munster Championship for five years when they take on Tipperary in Semple Stadium on Sunday.
It's a dismally long barren spell, one which will continue for another season at least if the betting market is to be believed.
Limerick are 9/2 outsiders to beat Tipperary, a less-than-encouraging backdrop for supporters who have grown accustomed to following the All-Ireland qualifier route.
The underlining essentials are solidifying in Limerick hurling, as instanced by the Munster Championship successes enjoyed by the county's U-21s and Na Piarsaigh seniors last year, but there's still widespread scepticism over whether John Allen's crew are sufficiently advanced to match Tipperary.
"We'd be eternally optimistic but it's the draw from hell really -- Tipperary in the first round in Thurles, with Cork waiting for the winners," said Ollie Moran, who was a central figure in Limerick's last win in a Munster Championship game five years ago.
"Tipperary are a lot more advanced than Limerick but then they're ahead of most other counties, too.
"Limerick are still in transition stage. Donal O'Grady put down a good platform last year and the U-21s winning Munster was a boost too but there's still a lot to be done.
"There's good talent coming through but it needs time to mature. We'd be hoping for a big performance against Tipperary but they have a huge advantage in big-time experience."
Stephen McDonagh, a secure defensive pillar on the last Limerick team to win a Munster title in 1996, believes it's crucial to get a good start on Sunday.
"We've got to wire into Tipperary -- show them that we're there. If we let them get on top and open up a lead, it will be a hard day," he said.
McDonagh has concerns about the spine of the Limerick team but, like Moran, is optimistic that in a broader context the county is headed very much in the right direction.
"The young lads are making rapid progress but this is a big step up for them," he added.
"It's a great pity that Seamus Hickey is injured. He's the sort of fella you need on days like next Sunday.
"It's vital to put in a good performance and even if we don't win, we need to do enough to make sure we go into the qualifiers with a fair degree of confidence.
"It's hard to believe that it's five years since Limerick won a match in Munster but, unfortunately, that's the case.
"We'd all love to be wrong and see the lads win on Sunday but, realistically, it's probably too much to ask."
McDonagh is critical of the pricing arrangements for Sunday's double-header in Thurles, claiming that €30 for an adult stand ticket is excessive.
"I know there are special deals for families and groups and if you buy through clubs, but it's still €30 for adults to get into the covered stand if they turn up on the day," he said.
"That's too much in the current climate. Petrol has never been as dear, which adds considerably to the cost.
"Given the times that are in it, I think €20 would be enough for the best ticket."
Sunday's programme features Tipperary v Kerry in football as well as the Tipperary v Limerick hurling showdown, but McDonagh reckons that a double event isn't as much of a draw as the organisers might think.
"How many will come from Kerry at those prices? A few hundred, I'd say," he said.
"Both games are live on television so when you add in the cost of going to the game to the price of the ticket, a lot of people will opt to stay at home.
"The danger is that if people react to prices like that and stay at home, we could go back very quickly to the attendances of the 1980s. That would be a pity after building them up so well over the years."
The top-priced €30 ticket (covered stand) will be reduced by €5 if ordered through clubs. The uncovered stand costs €25 while adult terrace admission is €15.
A family package (two adults, two children in the uncovered stand) costs €60. Stand and terrace deals for groups of 20 and 15 also apply.
Full details can be found on the Munster Council's website.