Sunday 18 August 2019

Limerick will improve but rejuvenated Premier men have scoring power to build on impressive momentum

Séamus Callanan. Photo: Sportsfile
Séamus Callanan. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Galway lost one game in Leinster and were tossed out of the All-Ireland race; Limerick can lose in Munster for a third time in five games tomorrow and still remain in contention to retain the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Galway lost one game in Leinster and were tossed out of the All-Ireland race; Limerick can lose in Munster for a third time in five games tomorrow and still remain in contention to retain the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

It's a curious system, which doesn't major in logic. Indeed, there's every chance that Limerick will lose a third game as they are up against a rejuvenated Tipperary outfit who have already beaten them once.

The fact that John Kiely didn't start his strongest side in Semple Stadium two weeks ago was interpreted as a sign that winning the Munster title does not figure high on the Limerick agenda, which has retaining the All-Ireland title as the ultimate target.

It's hard to argue with that, since a Cork win or draw against Clare would have sent the Rebels, rather than Limerick, through to play Tipperary in the final. However, having got a lucky break with Clare's win over Cork, Limerick have to approach tomorrow's game as if it were knockout.

Three defeats in five games would surely damage their confidence, even if they are All-Ireland champions.

Besides, it would send them down the quarter-final route where, barring massive upsets involving Laois and Westmeath in preliminary games, Dublin will be waiting. And on the basis of what we've seen from Mattie Kenny's men, they are serious All-Ireland contenders.

Despite Leinster's very tight campaign, there's a growing view that Munster are likely to produce the All-Ireland finalists this year, although quite what that's based on is difficult to fathom.

GAA Newsletter

Expert GAA analysis straight to your inbox.

Galway, who have lost only two games in three championships, didn't even make it into Leinster's top three, so clearly the east is ultra-competitive too.

If Galway had squeezed in a late goal and won last year's All-Ireland, the attitude to Limerick would be completely different now - especially after losing to Cork and Tipperary this year.

They would be regarded as very vulnerable, whereas their status as All-Ireland champions has created an aura that masks apparent shortcomings.

It's as if there's a sense that they know exactly what they're doing and will come good at precisely the right time.

It's not that simple. Despite all the apparent strengths in their game, they are prone to periods of malfunction, during which they look very ordinary indeed.

It happened in both the All-Ireland semi-final and final last year and again in their opening round robin game against Cork last month when, after being a point behind heading into the last quarter, they lost the remainder of the game by 1-8 to 0-5.

It was difficult to judge them against Tipperary as the team selection suggested than John Kiely didn't regard it as a game of huge significance.

This is different. A second defeat by Tipperary would surely jolt their confidence, just as the season is winding up for the business end. Tipperary have been the story of the championship so far, scoring a total of 8-101 when beating their four Munster rivals by margins of 7, 18, 13, 4 points respectively.

Their average total per games is ten points better than in the league. Even allowing for the better ground conditions, that's quite an increase. Séamus Callanan has scored 4-11, John McGrath (1-14), John O'Dwyer (0-13), Jason Forde (1-10) and Noel McGrath (1-8) have contributed 7-56 from play between them, underlining just how well the front line is moving.

It could well be enough to steer Tipperary to their first Munster title since 2016.

Verdict: Tipperary

Irish Independent

The Throw-In All-Ireland Hurling Final preview: Can Tipp's firepower edge clash with the Cats?

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport