Limerick and Cork aim for Munster glory and easier path to September
TOMORROW'S Munster hurling final has taken on a double significance for Cork and Limerick in what will be their first clash in the provincial decider for 21 years.
In addition to breaking the six-season stranglehold on the title by Tipperary and Waterford, the winners will steer clear of the treacherous All-Ireland quarter-final waters and a possible clash with either last year's All-Ireland winners or runners-up.
Galway are already booked on for the quarter-finals and Kilkenny will be attempting to join them when they play Waterford in this evening's qualifiers. The Munster final losers will also be quarter-final bound, while the winners join Dublin in the semi-finals.
Avoiding the quarter-finals is a huge incentive for Cork and Limerick, which adds to the interest in what is expected to be a sell-out at the Gaelic Grounds.
Limerick, bidding to win Munster for the first time since 1996, are favourites (10/11) to beat Cork (11/10), whose last title win was in 2006. Tom Kenny is Cork's only survivor from the 2006 team.
John Allen led Cork to the 2006 success and will now be trying to plot his native county's downfall as Limerick manager. The intrigue is increased by the presence of Jimmy Barry-Murphy in Cork's managerial seat, as the pair are St Finbarr's clubmates.
It'll be an extra-special occasion for Limerick, who are also involved in the minor final, where they will take on Waterford.
Some terrace tickets are still available but Munster PRO Ed Donnelly said a sell-out crowd of just over 44,000 was expected. It will be the largest attendance at the Munster final since 48,000 watched Tipperary beat Clare at the Gaelic Grounds in 2008. The stadium's capacity has since been reduced.
Tomorrow's turn-out will be an increase of almost 18,000 on last year's attendance at the Tipperary versus Waterford final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.