Thursday 18 October 2018

Tipp's big-time experience has them primed for a winning start

Tipperary captain Pádraic Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary captain Pádraic Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Five months ago and 7,000 miles away, May 20 was on Michael Ryan's mind. So too was the next month, a period in which 10 games will be played in the Munster championship to decide who contests the final on July 1.

Musing over the new format while on an All-Stars trip to Singapore last December, Ryan outlined what he saw as the biggest challenge in the four-game round-robin series.

"It's uncharted territory for us all in terms of how we plan the season. It's going to present big challenges for our S&C (strength and conditioning) guys," he said.

The schedule is especially demanding for Tipperary and Waterford, as they will both play on four successive weekends, whereas Cork, Limerick and Clare have a break along the way.

Limerick captain Declan Hannon. Photo: Sportsfile
Limerick captain Declan Hannon. Photo: Sportsfile

With the standard in Munster possibly higher than it has ever been, predicting which two counties will be eliminated is pure guesswork. Every result and every margin (placings will be decided on scoring averages if more than two finish on the same number of points) will be crucial.

One thing is certain: two top teams will be out of the All-Ireland race by June 17.

Tipperary head for the Gaelic Grounds tomorrow with the same Allianz League outcome as last year, even if the circumstances are somewhat different.

Whereas last year's trimming by Galway seriously rattled their confidence, the defeat by Kilkenny in the final last month won't have left any long-term scars. It was disappointing but not nearly as devastating as last year.

Limerick took a lot of satisfaction from this season's league, having beaten off Galway's challenge to take the promotion slot from 1B before battling through two extended clashes with Clare and Tipperary, winning the first (on a free-taking shoot-out) and losing the second in extra-time.

The overall campaign has left Limerick with a very positive mindset at a time where there's a feeling in the county that the graph is moving steadily in the right direction.

And, unlike previous times, it's backed by a confidence that the fundamentals are so sound that a setback or two won't damage the project. Still, they probably need to win tomorrow's game more than Tipperary. Early momentum is important for a squad whose development is less advanced than opposition who have been active at the business end of most seasons for a long time.

Limerick have tweaked their style under John Kiely, relying more on a passing game than used to be the case.

It worked well in the league but is now heading for much tougher tests in the vastly more competitive summer environment.

That's why Tipperary are playing them at a good time as it may take Limerick a while to get their game up to full power on the lightning-fast tracks of the championship circuit.

Playing in the Gaelic Grounds is no big disadvantage to Tipperary, who beat Limerick easily there three years ago. It will be a lot more competitive tomorrow but Tipperary have enough to pick up their first round-robin points.

Irish Independent

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