Hurling intro Ahead of today’s eagerly awaited All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final between Limerick and Clare, a team of experts answer the burning questions.
Answering the questions are Ollie Moran, Ahane and Limerick 2007 All Star and current RTE hurling pundit, Sean Stack, former Clare selector and All Star in 1981 and current Na Piarsaigh manager, Ger Hegarty, former Limerick star and minor manager and current Murroe-Boher manager, Sean Hehir, former Clare star and current South Liberties manager and Tony Considine, former Clare manager and current Kilmallock manager.
1. Where will be a key area of the field for Limerick to dominate on Sunday?
OLLIE MORAN: I feel that the most crucial part of the field will be the Limerick half forward line and the Clare half back line.
Clare tend to carry an extra man around the middle of the field but I think that getting on top of their half back line or to negate them would stop their supply lines.
Cork dominated the Clare half back line and that’s what helped them to defeat Clare.
SEAN STACK: I would say that Clare have very good forwards and if I was John Allen I wold be worried about their movement and pace.
I actually think both defences would be worried about either attack and whichever defence can lock down tight will be crucial.
GER HEGARTY: The key sector will be around the midfield and half back lines.
There is a great engine in this Clare team and they have a very high scoring half forward line that needs to be closed down.
I would be looking at the positions 8-12 on the Clare team and Limerick will have to get on top in these areas of the field but then again I don’t expect it to be a free flowing game like Cork v Galway.
SEAN HEHIR: I think both teams approach the game in a similar way. Clare set out very defensive and hit on the break. Limerick do the same - containment and then bring in the firepower in the second half.
TONY CONSIDINE: I have a feeling that the Limerick full forward line against the Clare full back line will be crucial.
Graeme Mulcahy, Declan Hannon and Sean Tobin can play big roles. Croke Park is built for speed and these players have that and a great touch.
I think Cian Dillon could move to mark Hannon and likewise at the other end there will be some big battles.
2. Do you expect Limerick to use the same tactics as the two previous games?
OLLIE MORAN: They are now in the habit of playing to that style. I actually think it suits the players more than being a designed tactic.
It suits Declan Hannon to move out the field and leave the two boys inside and it suits the likes of Seamus Hickey and David Breen to work around the field.
Last Sunday was a very open game of hurling but I think Sunday will be a lot tighter and very tough.
SEAN STACK: It’s not going to change now and you wouldn’t want to change what you are good at. Breen and Hickey are great at coming into the half back line but the Clare half backs start the momentum like a domino effect and stopping them would be big.
GER HEGARTY: I wouldn’t change what isn’t broken. But what we have to remember is that this is an All-Ireland championship game and not Munster. John Allen will have his work done and I have no doubt of that.
SEAN HEHIR: Last Sunday we had a fabulous Celtic Festival of hurling with a shoot-out of scores.
Sunday will be different - hurling is not a game where you can keep scores down.
Limerick and Clare will bring a different approach than last Sunday but it will be great to see all the match-ups between all the players.
TONY CONSIDINE: When you have a system that is working, you don’t change it.
And, remember Limerick have beaten a better opposition in Tipperary and Cork - albeit both games were in Limerick.
Croke Park is built for speed and its very hard to mark someone up there.
Limerick will gave got great confidence from Cork winning last Sunday because they beat them in the Munster final.
3. Who would you identify as the key players for the respective sides on Sunday?
OLLIE MORAN: For Clare I think Darach Honan is a big big player. Richie McCarthy gave him a torrid time last year and he will be out for vengeous.
If ther eis one Limerick guy do and capable of a big game its Graeme Mulcahy.
SEAN STACK: Darach Honan is huge for Clare. If he can have a day when he gets four or five good balls then it would be huge. Tony Kelly is also coming back into form after the U-21 game.
The difference will be goals and when you look to see who has the most potential, you have to think that it will depend on the quality of ball from the half backs.
GER HEGARTY: Limerick have the talent of Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes to come on for the last 15-20 minutes. They bring huge energy and scoring potential.
Richie McCarthy and Tom Condon will need another huge performance while the Clare 8 & 9 and half back line are very strong for them.
SEAN HEHIR: Colm Galvin is totally under-rated - without doubt he is a diamond and a real box to box hurler.
He is great to challenge for the ball and just as effective at the other end of the field.
From the Limerick side, I think they still have something to prove. The likes of Seanie Tobin and Graeme Mulcahy are important with the auxiliary lads from the bench.
TONY CONSIDINE: I think players like Graeme Mulcahy and Conor McGrath can have big games.
Graeme is one of the fastest players in the country and Conor has massive speed.
I’m a Clare man and I would be worried about Graeme having a big game.
4. Is the five week break and just two games played a concern for Limerick?
OLLIE MORAN: I wouldn’t see it as a big concern. I think Dublin hit the ground running last week.
The club games were a positive for Limerick and they kept lads grounded.
From what I hear training has been fairly intense in recent weeks and Limerick are in peak physical shape so the break won’t be an issue.
SEAN STACK: I think its massive - there is no relation between what you can play behind closed doors and real championship games.
You learn from every game and get used to the crowd and things like that.
Remember this is unchartered waters for Limerick and I think Clare will benefit from the Galway game and are still fresh.
GER HEGARTY: Five weeks is a long time alright and Clare did play three weeks ago against Galway and you can’t beat match practise.
Its a long time without a high energy game and its a concern.
But we are hearing nothing from within the Limerick camp and that is always a sign that things are going well.
SEAN HEHIR: The biggest problem for Limerick could be that they are away from the Gaelic Grounds.
A team with a big win in the middle of the season can find it hard to get back down and focus on the dirty challenge.
The likes of Dublin and Limerick want to play in an All-Ireland final but they have to remember that this is just a semi-final.
TONY CONSIDINE: To be inactive for four to five weeks could have a bearing.
Clare have had games and you can do all the training you want but nothing beats games.
It didn’t do Dublin any harm but it is a bit of a worry because Clare confidence will be high after beating Galway.