In this week’s Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely looks ahead to the Limerick SHC semi-finals.
The final four in the Limerick senior hurling championship will go head to head on Sunday at the Gaelic Grounds for a place in the county final later in October.
It’s been a mixed club championship as far as quality is concerned and many will be hoping for two cracking games on Sunday. Teams like Na Piarsaigh, Kilmallock and Ahane have tasted success many times but the dark horse going into the weekend games could well be Doon who have been making steady progress over the past few years.
Doon has produced many great hurlers but making the big breakthrough at senior level is the next big step for the East Limerick club. Tradition and pride go hand in hand in Doon but they also bring a fair degree of skill to the table and I expect them to make a bold bid for a place in the county final when they face Kilmallock.
Over the years Doon have come very close but for some reason they find it difficult to reproduce earlier form when it matters most. They have put in a massive effort over the past two years and it’s clear they are making progress but their time has come to deliver.
Standing in the way of Doon making the county final is Kilmallock and while they are not what they were a couple of years ago they still come into Sunday’s game with experience, a winning tradition and skill. Kilmallock now under former Clare star Ger O’Loughlin have not set the world on fire but the closer they get to the final stage the harder they will be to beat.
Kilmallock know how to win big games and that sort of experience is crucial at this stage of the championship. Adare looked to have done enough to beat them in their quarter final but Kilmallock’s ability to dig deep saw them over the line.
This could be a very close game and Doon will come in as underdogs and that will suit them just fine. What I liked about Doon this year is that the management have gone with young players and often that sort of bravery and honesty is rewarded.
Many of those young players have been involved with schools and county and they will not fear playing Kilmallock. The big question Doon has to answer is have they the real hunger to get over the line this time out?
If Doon brings a bit of steel and hunger to the Gaelic Grounds then I have no fear of them from a skill point of view. They have many fine players and I like the type of hurling they are playing. Former Tipperary player Dinny Ryan is a good hurling coach and he has improved how this team is playing. Manager Ger McGrath has put a good backroom team in place and it has to be said Doon are going in the right direction.
They must believe they can beat Kilmallock because if they travel from the valleys and mountains thinking otherwise they are in trouble before they start. Players like Mike Fitzgerald, Neill Maher, Dinny Moloney and Daragh O’Donovan could play keys roles but others like Dean Coleman, Eoin McNamara and Cathal McNamara might just provide the winning touch.
Kilmallock will know what needs to be done and few are better at doing it. If they get a hold on Sunday’s game early then Doon will have a difficult task in trying to rescue this encounter.
The South Limerick club have the guns to win the war and O’Loughlin will hope that lieutenants such as Paudie O’Brien, Gavin O’Mahony, Bryan O’Sullivan and Graeme Mulcahy will provide the ammunition to see them through to yet another County final.
Long before a ball was hit in this year’s championship Na Piarsaigh, the current holders, were seen as hot favourites to repeat the exercise once again this year. This club is heaving with talent and trying to get the best 15 on the field must present its own share of problems for manager Shane O’Neill.
On paper it would appear that Na Piarsaigh are just too strong for Ahane but on a given day anything could happen. Just a glimpse at the player list in Na Piarsaigh suggest they have power, skill and pace in abundance and the wide open spaces of the Gaelic Grounds will suit them.
Ahane rest assured will come with a challenge. The fumes of great days in the past still keep this club burning. They will however need this to be their most complete performance if they are to win. Niall Moran has led the way in nearly all of their games to date but he will need others all over the field to stand tall on Sunday.
I watched Tom Morrissey a couple of weeks ago when he played a trial game with the fresher’s in UL and without doubt he was the best player on the field. He has good hands and knows where the goals are but he will need to bring that form to unlock the Na Piarsaigh defence on Sunday.
Na Piarsaigh have quality in every line and when you add the likes of Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes to any attack then you can really see what makes them tick. Both games will be very interesting and while Kilmallock and Na Piarsaigh would be expected to meet in the county final I do think these games will be closer than some might think.