Fearless Limerick have legs to set up victory - Moran
After being on the crest of a wave following the first three rounds of the Munster SHC, things unravelled badly for Limerick against Clare and Treaty legend Ollie Moran sees Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final with Kilkenny as a "red-letter day" for John Kiely's squad.
Optimism was high on Shannonside as a Munster final berth looked to be in the offing, but a heavy defeat to the Banner put paid to those ambitions and defeat in Thurles on Sunday would signal an early end to a season which had much promise.
Moran wasn't worried leaving Cusack Park in Ennis that day, however, and he expects them to bounce back in style against the Cats in an all-or-nothing clash.
"At some point Limerick were always going to hit a roadblock and they did against a Clare team that were just hungrier and fresher than them on the day. I wouldn't have been one bit disheartened by that," he said.
"I would definitely feel there is a kick in them. Limerick would feel they've had their break, and a lot of them will feel that if the year is to be cast as a success then they need to be getting to an All-Ireland semi-final and beating the likes of Kilkenny.
"Even mentally, they know that this is a challenge that they really have to overcome. I don't subscribe to the view that Kilkenny will be tired, but I'd be quietly confident that Limerick are really going to go at them and take them out of their comfort zone."
The former All-Star attacker hopes this young Treaty side - full of All-Ireland U-21 winners from 2015 and '17 - can come of age and he doesn't expect there to be any fear factor against Brian Cody's men after pushing them close in last year's Nowlan Park Qualifier.
"Limerick would have felt last year that they got a big bounce against Kilkenny and had enough chances to beat them, many would have felt that it was just their greater experience that won through in the end," he said.
"This Limerick team will have no fear of playing Kilkenny. A lot of them would have played them in the U-21 final last year where Limerick had a comprehensive win and I just feel that fear factor that was there is gone.
"Kilkenny are every bit as powerful but in overall terms, it feels a lot more even than when Kilkenny were in their heyday. They still have that ability to eke something out when they're being beaten all ends up but teams are going at them now.
"Limerick probably haven't converted as much possession as they have had in their games, but they're not going to get out of Thurles if they don't take the majority of their chances. We need to be more clinical.
"We'll have the legs on the Kilkenny backs if we can get that platform in the middle third. If they can win that sector, it'll allow Limerick to play the game on their terms.
"And if this turns into a physical brawl, they'll feel more than capable of winning it with huge men all over the field."
Negating key performers like Cillian Buckley, Conor Fogarty and TJ Reid down the spine of Kilkenny's side is a priority for the former Limerick captain, who feels Kiely's youthful squad have benefited massively from a change in championship structure.
"They are definitely further down the line as a result of the amount of matches they've had, four competitive games in Munster which have helped a lot of fellas to develop," the Ahane clubman said.
"There was never a question about their talent or ability, but they were lacking experience and this championship has given them great exposure that would have had to wait two or three years for under previous structure."
Time will tell whether that experience will be put to good use as opportunity knocks for Limerick.