Tuesday 15 October 2019

Kelly: You're going to see a different Limerick in the Munster final

Tipperary legend Eoin Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary legend Eoin Kelly. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Having welcomed a young Patrick 'Bonner' Maher into the Tipperary fold with open arms and watched him flourish, Premier legend Eoin Kelly knows more than most about his character.

Not blessed with the same raw talent as supreme stick men like Seamus Callanan or Noel McGrath, 'Bonner' has made up for that shortfall through his remarkable endeavour and has become one of their go-to performers.

While silky-smooth attackers were putting the scores on the board, Maher was usually the one doing the donkey work to create them and breaking opposition hearts with turnovers and flicks.

Given his perseverance on the pitch, Kelly has no doubt that the Lorrha/Dorrha forward can overcome the cruciate knee ligament injury which prematurely ends his season and he is adamant that the 29-year-old will return to play for Tipp again.

"Having had the injury myself, I know how tough it is to come back from but Bonner is the kind of guy who'll fight hard," the Paddy Power columnist said.

"He fits into that same category as Seamus Callanan and Brendan Maher. He has the same character as those guys. There's no doubt in my mind that he will back in the Tipperary jersey because that's his personality."

Much like when James Woodlock missed the 2010 campaign with a broken leg but remained an integral part of the squad, Kelly is happy to see the same happen with Maher under Liam Sheedy, and his bad luck creates an opportunity for others to shine.

"The last time he was in charge, Liam put a big emphasis on making sure an injured guy is still a strong member of the squad. He'll certainly use Bonner in some capacity this year," the 2010 All-Ireland-winning Tipp skipper said.

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"Bonner was one of the guys in that Tipperary team that led the way in terms of work ethic and the rest of the side have now come up to that standard. I'm sure the player that will fill Bonner's boots will have to match that.

"Niall O'Meara and Dan McCormack have that robust edge to them too. Sometimes, someone's misfortune can lead to someone else's fortune."

While Tipp's defeat of Limerick "wasn't as flamboyant" as earlier victories over Cork, Waterford and Clare, Kelly was happy for Sheedy's side to "maintain that winning mentality" before a Munster final rematch with the Treaty.

Maher and Cathal Barrett will miss the June 30 clash with the All-Ireland champions in the LIT Gaelic Grounds and six-time All-Star Kelly is expecting John Kiely's men to be a different animal on home soil.

"There was definitely some shadow boxing going on. I've no doubt about it - you're going to see a different Limerick team in the Munster final. Limerick still have loads of potential and they've a lot to offer in this year yet," the Mullinahone clubman said.

"It's going to take a massive performance from Tipp to overturn them there."

Kelly - who was drafted in as free-taking coach by Sheedy in recent months - still values the Munster SHC title as much as an All-Ireland and he is expecting a titanic battle.

"When was the last time that Limerick had the National League trophy, the Munster cup and Liam MacCarthy sitting in the county board's cabinet? John Kiely is going to attack this," he said.

"Tipperary are going to be gung-ho for a Munster final too. I'd still hold the Munster Championship up there in the same regard as a Celtic Cross.

"I know at the end of the season the All-Ireland is the ultimate prize, but winning a Munster title is still very special."

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