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Premier look the safer Tipp

MAYBE it’s got something to do with Waterford. Or maybe it’s the mature recollection that Limerick, for all their recent trouble and strife, are still the reigning Munster champions.

Whatever the explanation - Waterford’s thrilling rebuttal of 
preconceived notions, against Cork last Sunday, or more-distant memories of last summer - there is a feeling afoot that tomorrow’s Semple showdown is anything but the open-and-shut case that you might have believed just a few short weeks ago.

Is there any science behind this gut feeling? Not much. We all know, logically, Tipperary should win. They boast the more compelling recent league form. They’re at home. They should have the motivational edge on foot of last summer’s early Munster ambush.


That’s before we even get around to the recent avoidable mess of the Limerick county board’s own making, one that resulted in the more experienced half of their management team walking away.

But? Well, they are still - essentially - the same core that steamrolled Tipp during the fourth quarter of last year’s corresponding fixture, hitting seven of the last eight points to win by 1-18 to 1-15.

That comeback was almost a direct reversal of what happened in 2012, when the gung-ho Shannonsiders accelerated into a seven-point lead after 48 minutes, only for Tipp to storm back and win by four.

Thus, while the most recent championship score reads one win apiece, the evidence suggests that these Limerick players fancy their chances in direct combat with Tipp.

For both of these years, John Allen was their manager. Writing in his regular newspaper column this week, the Corkman pointed out: “It’s basically the same Limerick group of players.

“They are an honourable, hard-working, keen, decent group of talented hurlers.

“They are underdogs again after a poor enough league campaign. Maybe their watershed this year came when the coach and board parted company. We’ll see on Sunday.”

As forecasts go, that’s pretty non-committal but then it’s an understandable reaction to the uncertainty generated by Donal O’Grady’s decision to quit as joint-manager and coach, leaving TJ Ryan to fly solo.

The one certainty is that the board completely botched the row that erupted over what team management said to senior Limerick officers when reviewing their latest failure to escape Division 1B.

Leaving aside the alleged (and vehemently denied) “apology” for Limerick’s poor spring form, it is obvious that the management duo were initially struggling to extract the maximum from this group.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the rookie boss Ryan has opted for on-field experience.

A selection devoid of debutants is still noteworthy for the inclusion of Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes, now tasked with providing scoreboard momentum from the start, rather than as game-changers off the bench.

The other eye-catching feature is not alone the recall of Seamus Hickey - back from his cruciate injury - but his relocation to corner-back, where he flourished during his first senior campaign back in 2007.

Eamon O’Shea has deferred announcing his Tipperary team until today ... but it’s hard to envisage too many changes from the one that came to tantalisingly close to league glory.

Will that latest, Kilkenny-inflicted, extra-time defeat has reopened some old psychological wounds? We don’t think so, at least not immediately.

In a nutshell, Limerick have an array of match-winners if the mood takes them while the recent off-field discord could, potentially, prove a kick-starting watershed.

Countering that, the defensive reconfiguration that has seen the Mahers, Pádraic and Brendan, shore up their spine, coupled with Patrick Bonner’ Maher’s rejuvenation in the half-forwards and the prolific shooting of Seamus Callanan and Noel McGrath should - we stress should - propel the Premier to victory.