Morrissey insists Limerick can cope with greater expectations
Coping with expectation in the county rather than excitement is one of the biggest tests the Limerick hurlers have faced as they seek to defend their All-Ireland title, according to Tom Morrissey.
Limerick are just one step away from a return to the All-Ireland final, but Saturday's semi-final against an 'improved' Kilkenny at Croke Park will be a massive challenge according to the Ahane clubman.
Morrissey (23) delivered one of his best performances of the season in victory over Kilkenny in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final where as Limerick's top scorer from open play, his four points proved pivotal in their 0-27 to 1-22 win.
But as the team to beat this year, it has been a different season for John Kiely's side but Morrissey says the squad has warmed to the challenge.
"There probably is a different feel to it, at this time last year there was probably more excitement and hype around us, this year it's more expectation," said Morrissey, now in his fourth year as a Limerick senior.
"People expect a level of performance and a victory that they didn't expect this time last year, but that doesn't bother us as a group. We focus on getting ourselves right and don't focus on what's going on with the public and the media.
"There's an expectation now that we can deliver a good performance and win and make an All-Ireland final. Obviously we had that last year, but maybe more people expect it of us this year."
The form of the half-forward line has been excellent again this year and their ability to transition from deep lying defenders into all out attackers earned Morrissey, Gearóid Hegarty and Kyle Hayes plenty of plaudits after their successful All-Ireland run.
By and large Limerick manager Kiely has stuck with the same team that delivered the 2018 Liam MacCarthy Cup, with 13 of his All-Ireland final team starting their Munster final victory over Tipperary four weeks ago.
Kilkenny, on the other hand, only featured ten of the team that started against Limerick in 2018 in their recent quarter-final win over Cork. Morrissey thinks both teams are on an upward trajectory.
"They're definitely going to be tough, I think both teams have improved. In 2017 they beat us by three points in Nowlan Park, last year we got over the line by two, so I expect the same Saturday.
"There won't be much between the teams and you know you're going to get a good battle against Kilkenny.
"Last year the summer of hurling was a bit mad. That Kilkenny game was a stand-out moment, no doubt, they've been top dogs for the last decade, so beating them in a knock-out game, All-Ireland quarter-final, was massive for the group."
When the sides met earlier this year in the national hurling league at Nowlan Park, Limerick left with a nine-point win, a game that saw Morrissey introduced late on. Since then Kilkenny have reshuffled their defence though with Pádraig Walsh and Paddy Deegan freed to operate in the half-back line, where they flank Cillian Buckley.
Fit again centre-back Buckley is the only constant in that line from last year's championship win, but despite the likely changes from the opposition Morrissey is hoping for a repeat result for Limerick.
"We're hoping for a similar performance this weekend. That was a great win for us, to get over the line against Kilkenny, probably the strongest traditional powerhouse in the last few years.
"As an emerging team it was great for our belief to beat them last year, it was one of the big moments for this team.
"We're lucky as a team to have come out on the right side of those results for the most part, and sometimes when you're in a situation and you're in a spot of bother, you can remain calm and stick to the game plan. We have it in our locker to get over the line."