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O'Shea's numbers will give Tipp edge

TWO things Eamon O'Shea said this week put a large asterisk beside his maiden Championship selection as Tipperary manager.

Firstly, he stressed: "It's not about the first 15. I have 30 guys that are bursting to get on to the 26 for matchday and those 26 are bursting to get on the first 15."

Secondly, O'Shea also intimated that, if he had his way, he wouldn't reveal his team selection until just before throw-in, so even with a couple of high-profile names on the bench, the named XV can be taken with a pinch of salt.

Against that, O'Shea's preference for pace – particularly in attack – makes the selection of Jason Forde, Shane Bourke and Seamus Callanan, rather than Eoin Kelly, seem plausible.

When he was coach, rather than manager, of Tipperary under Liam Sheedy, the Premier attack specialised in opening space and thundering into it, creating gaps for goals and demonstrated a penchant for selflessness and clinical finishing.

Further back, his team seems sound too. Particularly with the spectacular return to form and fitness of Brendan Maher, who, provided Shane McGrath continues on a similarly redemptive path, can form one of the most dynamic pairings in hurling, often aided-and-abetted by the deep-dropping Noel McGrath.

It is, perhaps, no surprise that Pádraic Maher has been switched to wing-back after his chastising by Michael Fennelly in the league final and Tipp's defence always seems that bit more assured with Paul Curran at full-back and Conor O'Mahony at six.

Interesting, too, is John Allen's decision to leave both Kevin Downes and Shane Dowling on the Limerick bench for tomorrow's Thurles duel, particularly as their half-forward line of David Breen, James Ryan and Seamus Hickey are unlikely to score as frequently as their Tipp counterparts.

How quickly Allen has picked his team up after their Division 1B loss to Dublin will be interesting to see.

But there is no doubt that Limerick will not have any inhibitions about facing and putting it up to Tipp.

There is, however, a quality deficit and Tipp should reap the rewards.

ODDS: Limerick 7/2, Draw 12/1, Tipperary 1/4

VERDICT: Tipperary


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