Thursday 24 October 2019

Few comforts at home as away teams fight back

Away days: Limerick’s Aaron Gillane clashes with Cork’s Eoin Cadogan during the Rebels’ victory on Sunday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Away days: Limerick’s Aaron Gillane clashes with Cork’s Eoin Cadogan during the Rebels’ victory on Sunday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

If Limerick are looking for optimistic pointers as they re-set their championship plan following the defeat by Cork, they will find one in a source that up to last Sunday week would have been seen as a major negative.

The predominance of home wins in last year's Munster championship was factored in to most analysis of this year's campaign on the basis that it would again be a disappointing summer for visiting teams.

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The opposite was the case in the first two rounds, with only one home win - Tipperary over Waterford in Thurles on Sunday - from four games.

Home comforts yielded nothing for Cork against Tipperary in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, for Waterford against Clare in Walsh Park and, most significantly, for Limerick against Cork in the LIT Gaelic Grounds

The away success rate is in stark contrast to last year when only Clare picked up points on their travels, beating Tipperary in Thurles.

Of the other nine games, five were home wins, two finished level and two were played at neutral venues.

Both involved Waterford who, because of Walsh Park's low capacity, were forced to play Tipperary in Limerick and Cork in Thurles.

They were annoyed at being the only county not allowed to stage home games, prompting development work which took the capacity up to just over 11,000.

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It allowed Walsh Park to join the venue rota this year, a development which raised hopes of a big improvement on last season when they lost three and drew one of four games.

However, it didn't work out as planned in the opening game against Clare who beat them by a point in Walsh Park.

On the same day, Tipperary powered well clear of Cork on Leeside. The home side were so outclassed that few thought they would match Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds a week later.

Delivering

Instead, they took their performance to a level the All-Ireland and Allianz League champions couldn't reach, delivering a win that has completely changed the complexion of the Munster championship.

It has also shaken, if not exactly demolished, the theory that playing at home is a big advantage.

Limerick's 8/15 odds were based on their status as All-Ireland and league champions, with the win over Cork in extra-time in last year's semi-final a major contributor to their drive to glory.

However, a closer look at their rivalry with the Rebels told a different story.

The sides drew in both the Munster round-robin and All-Ireland semi-final (normal time) while Cork won this year's league clash in the Gaelic Grounds.

It was a good return against Limerick, yet the expectation was that they would be beaten last Sunday.

There was little between Cork and Tipp in the pre-match odds for their clash last Sunday week, so it was no great surprise that Liam Sheedy's men won. The unexpected element came in the meekness of Cork's display, which fed into the view that they would struggle against Limerick.

Nor could it be classed as a shock that Clare beat Waterford in Walsh Park. Much was predicated on how the emotion of the occasion - it was Waterford's first 'home' Munster championship game against any opposition other than Kerry for 23 years - would be a positive influence, but may also have brought a pressure which weighed them down.

Munster championship results from the 10 seasons prior to the introduction of the round-robin showed a 12-5 split in favour of home wins.

It's two home wins, one away win and a draw from Leinster's four round-robin games this year. It was 6-4 in favour of home wins from the 10 games last season.

The next big pressure point in the Munster home-and-away rota comes on Sunday week when Waterford host Limerick in Walsh Park.

The Déise have to win to retain any hope of staying in the All-Ireland race while another defeat for Limerick, while not necessarily fatal, would leave them in serious danger of being the biggest early casualties of the season.

 

Munster teams are happier on the road

Clare were the only team to win away in last year’s Munster championship, beating Tipperary in Round 4 in Semple Stadium.

There were five home wins: Limerick v Tipperary, Cork v Clare, Clare v Waterford, Limerick v Waterford and Clare v Limerick.

There were two draws – Tipperary v Cork and Cork v Limerick – involving teams in the home-and-away rota while Waterford played two games at neutral venues because of Walsh Park’s unavailability.

Three of this year’s four games have produced away wins – Tipperary over Cork, Clare over Waterford and Cork over Limerick – leaving Tipp’s win over Waterford last Sunday as the only home win so far.

Is the swing towards away wins temporary or an indication of what’s to come in the remainder of the campaign?

There are no games next weekend, with the action resuming the following weekend when Waterford play Limerick in Walsh Park and Clare host Tipperary in Ennis.

It’s two home wins (Galway, Kilkenny), one away (Kilkenny) and one draw (Dublin v Wexford) in Leinster’s four games so far.

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