With the Limerick senior hurling championship final, between Adare and Kilmallock, taking place on Sunday (3.30) in the Gaelic Grounds, our team of experts answer the burning questions.
1. Have the two best teams qualified for the final and who will be champions?
JEROME O’CONNELL (Limerick Leader GAA Correspondent) - The semi-final meeting of Na Piarsaigh and Kilmallock would have been a worthy finale to any championship. Nonetheless Sunday offers an intruiging decider with plenty individual and collective talent.
Kilmallock as league champions have been the form team of 2012. Adare rode their luck but are now finding form at the right time.
But I’m predicting, as I did at the start of the year, Kilmallock.
DONIE RYAN (Garryspillane captain and Limerick SHC top-scorer) - There is no doubt about it the best two teams are in the final.
Kilmallock have definitely been the most consistent team this year. Adare have been lucky with the whole Emmets thing but they are there now.
I can tell you that I believe Adare can pull this off. They are no bad team and Ger O’Loughlin will have them right.
I only heard after our semi-final that some of their players are looking for a sixth county medal.
SEAN STACK (Na Piarsaigh’s 2011 winning manager) - We would like to think that the two best teams aren’t in the final! Maybe the semi-final would have been a great final!
But only two teams reach the final and they have both beaten what was put in front of them. On form Kilmallock are the team to beat and I would say that Adare would have to be the outsiders on Sunday.
Kilmallock have great forceful players and leaders in key positions, while I think Adare could have some weak links around their team.
Kilmallock were hurt last year and weren’t going to be get caught this season.
LEO O’CONNOR (Limerick’s 2011 Munster U-21 winning manager) - The two best teams have qualified for the final, pity what happened with the Emmets, You can see both sides of the argument both it badly effected Granagh Ballingarry,
Kilmallock and Adare are two very good hurling sides, promises to be a interesting game.
At the end of the day, I think Kilmallock will win it.
LIAM AHERNE (Limerick’s Live 95FM Sports Editor) - With the way the championship is structured the best teams will normally make the final and this year promises to be a cracker.
Kilmallock are justifiably favorites for the game after the semi final performances.
Adare though are a bit like Monaleen in the football over the past couple of seasons and we saw how in scraping through has given them a big shot in the arm.
I would give the nod though to Kilmallock but I would say it will be tighter then many expect.
2. What players have you seen that could be an addition to the Limerick panel?
JEROME O’CONNELL (Limerick Leader GAA Correspondent) - John Allen’s 2011 panel was reflective of all on offer.
Nonetheless he will look to freshen up his options. Kilmallock’s Kevin O’Donnell and Robert Egan, Adare’s Willie Griffin and John Fitzgibbon, Na Piarsaigh’s Adrian Breen and Alan Dempsey, Patrickswell’s Diarmuid Byrnes have caught the eye as well as David Reidy of Dromin-Athlacca.
DONIE RYAN (Garryspillane captain and Limerick SHC top-scorer) - There aren’t too many candidates out there other than those already on John Allen’s panel. Definitely two that I saw are Robbie Egan (Kilmallock) and Adrian Breen (Na Piarsaigh).
There is young talent out there but when you look at the county U-21 team this year that was very disappointing to lose like that.
SEAN STACK (Na Piarsaigh’s 2011 winning manager) - John Allen has been around at games and I am sure that he has had his eyes open to certain players. I would be surprised if certain guys didn’t get a call-up.
There is great momentum there for Limerick and there are certainly contenders for the Munster championship next season.
I’d say that they need big work horses in central positions.
Those players are out there if they are willing to put in the heart and commitement that is needed.
LEO O’CONNOR (Limerick’s 2011 Munster U-21 winning manager) - Four or five players should be brought along now to the panel, Alan Dempsey great reader of the game, covers for players around him and good striker when in possession of ball, Barry O’Connell, big strong man only 19 now, could make a very good half back. Dan Morriessy as a midfielder/ half forward great engine as works real hard for his team, Patrick Begley if his around for next summer, we need to a full back alternative so we have options when situations arise during games. These players need physical conditioning for the winter and then have a look at them during the league
LIAM AHERNE (Limerick’s Live 95FM Sports Editor) - There are a lot of younger players that we have seen over the past few months.
From the finalists I would like to see Robbie Egan given a shot he has been impressive through the championship in the games I have seen.
I know that it’s from the Intermediate championship but certainly David Reidy of Dromin-Athlacca is worth a shot. He has been superb in their run to the final.
I’m sure they younger players such as Mark Carmody, John Fitzgibbon will be given their chances too this year by John Allen.
3. How would you rate the quality of the games in the 2012 championship?
JEROME O’CONNELL (Limerick Leader GAA Correspondent) - The slight change to restrict the County Cup to the third placed finishers and send only the bottom teams of the groups into the relegation play-offs worked a treat and made the final round of the group most competitive.
The progress of Garryspillane again demonstrates that all can dream of advancing in the championship, albeit not winning it outright.
The fact that both finalists were beaten enroute to the decider shows that all teams can be lowered on any given day.
There weren’t too many one-sided games with exciement and some quality along the way.
DONIE RYAN (Garryspillane captain and Limerick SHC top-scorer) - I’m not sure what the quality is like.
We got to the semi-final but we played our best hurling early in the year and then Adare beat us handy and I doubt we would have beaten Kilmallock.
The quality can always improve and what is vital is that lads are playing competitive games.
SEAN STACK (Na Piarsaigh’s 2011 winning manager) - People would be talking about championships being poor and this and that but you have got to remember some of the conditions that games are played in. One of our games was played in terrible rain altogether.
There is a terrible big gap between teams at the top and the others.
That leads to lop-sided games and that is no good to anyone when it comes to the big games at the end of the championship.
LEO O’CONNOR (Limerick’s 2011 Munster U-21 winning manager) - The quality of games generally have been ok. It really only kicked off when quarter-final stage arrived.
LIAM AHERNE (Limerick’s Live 95FM Sports Editor) - I would say this year has been a good quality championship. There have been very few one sided games which is a good sign of how even the championship is. When you look at Granagh Ballingarry beating Adare in the opening round and for Adare to make the final and Granagh Ballingarry being relegated shows how tight it is. The Kilmallock/Na Piarsaigh game was without doubt the highlight of the championship but there have been many memorable games in 2012.
4. Would you make any changes to the structure of the Limerick SHC?
JEROME O’CONNELL (Limerick Leader GAA Correspondent) - I have always been a fan of the divisional teams, and would have forced all four into the championship proper, but it appears a lack of support from players and officials will see an end to that experiement.
If that change is to happen, it could be time to look towards the format of the Limerick SFC where there are 12 teams with six guaranteed games.
Six of the 12 teams would advance to the knockout stages. Another four could go to the County Cup and that would leave the bottom two teams in the relegation final.
DONIE RYAN (Garryspillane captain and Limerick SHC top-scorer) - I think it needs to be stoked up a bit.
The first thing is that the big break is killing it - fellas are starting out training in mid-Feb and playing semi-finals in September.
I don’t know how to rectify it, especially with so many dual players.
What about if we had a Premier SHC with eight teams, because you have to ask how many teams can realistically win the Daly Cup starting out?
Then we could have a County Cup of 16 teams with the winner promoted the following year to the premier.
SEAN STACK (Na Piarsaigh’s 2011 winning manager) - I would say that maybe it is time for Limerick to look at a championship with two groups and seven matches.
The league in Limerick isn’t working when you are hurling without your county players and that can often include U-21 and minor county players.
You need plenty games with all your top players if everyone is to improve.
I think a group championship is the way to go rather than knockout but maybe it’s time for Limerick to have another look at it.
LEO O’CONNOR (Limerick’s 2011 Munster U-21 winning manager) - Its very hard to get it right, divisional teams at this stage has run their race I think, particularly if Dromin Athalaca win the itermediate Championship,
It has been mainly Emmets that contested in the championship,
Most clubs in the south division are strong and competition in the senior championship has brought on their players also.
Leave the senior hurling championship to clubs only at this stage, and maybe reduce down to 12 teams with 12 teams in senior B with two to qualify for ‘A’ championship.
LIAM AHERNE (Limerick’s Live 95FM Sports Editor) - I would make just one change. I was never a fan of the divisional teams in the championship and unfortunately it was shown up this year. I am all for as many players as possible getting a chance at senior but our fixture programme in Limerick doesn’t allow for it. Apart from that I would keep the groups as
opposed to going back to the open draw every round.