Limerick v Tipperary Munster SHC match preview

Jerome O’Connell

Reporter:

Jerome O’Connell

Captains Limerick hurler Donal O'Grady, left, and Tipperary hurler Brendan Maher
IT’S important to remember that Limerick are Munster hurling champions.

IT’S important to remember that Limerick are Munster hurling champions.

Heading to Thurles on Sunday that cannot be taken away from Limerick.

More importantly Limerick beat Tipperary enroute to that first provincial title since 1996.

Regardless of what happened during the Spring just gone, there is a confidence within this Limerick hurling camp. A steely confidence that appears to come to the surface come championship time.

This panel are hungry for success and I don’t think the mid-season departure of Donal O’Grady will totally work against their chances of toppling Tipperary on Sunday.

Remember Limerick and Tipperary are facing into a third successive championship encounter. Of the 140-minutes to-date Limerick have bossed over 115-minutes and with that must come a knowing confidence.

There is no denying, 2014 has not brought all that Limerick hurling supporters would have wished but in the last three seasons this bunch of players have developed an uncanny knack of bridging the gap between league and championship in impressive fashion.

Indeed despite coming from the second tier of the league, championship intensity has not been a problem.

Perhaps lasting the pace has been an issue but with Mark Lyons now in his second season as physical coach, it should not be a problem in Semple Stadium on Sunday.

What is certain on Sunday is that Tipperary will also be ready.

Certainly among Tipperary supporters there is the perception that their side were ‘caught on the hop’ last year.

If that is the case, Eamonn O’Shea and Co surely wont be found wanting this time round.

This is not lost on Limerick and some players spoke last week about needed to be percentages better than last season to record a first championship win over Tipp in Thurles since 1973.

Limerick have 19 Munster senior hurling championship titles.

But just twice the opening defence of their crown has brought them to Semple Stadium to play Tipperary. On both occasions the provincial semi-finals needed replays and on both occasions Limerick eventually prevailed.

The last occasion that Tipp provided the first test for Limerick as Munster champions was in 1981. On June 7 of that year the sides finished level in Thurles, Limerick 4-10, Tipperary 3-13 and a few weeks later Limerick emerged 3-17 to 2-12 winners. Limerick went on to claim the provincial title with a final victory over Clare.

The only other opening round clash of the Munster rivals when Limerick were champions was in 1975. The first day out saw the sides finish Limerick 2-16, Tipperary 2-13. Limerick went on to win the replay 0-17 to 1-10 but lost the final to Cork.

This Sunday Limerick bid to make it third time lucky as champions.

Much will need to go write.

Challenge games against Cork, Galway and Dublin saw Limerick concede a number of goals and with a host of sharp attackers in The Premier line-up this must be a concern.

At the other end of the field, Limerick have firepower and they will need days like they had last Summer in the Gaelic Grounds.

While not all players will admit is publicly, there is still a residue of pain from the All-Ireland semi-final collapse to Clare.

Plenty motivation so - next comes application.

It appears from post-league challenge games that the over reliance on the short-passsing game is gone.

Tactically John Allen worked a master plan against Tipp and Cork last Summer.

Only time will tell what TJ Ryan, Paul Beary, Mark Lyons and Davy Clarke have up their sleeves.

During the latter stages of the league, Tipp appeared to sit centre back Brendan Maher as deep cover for their full back line. Limerick had trouble with this tactic against Galway in the league quarter-final and hopefully if the scenario arises, it won’t cause as much havoc this time round.

In attack Tipp are likely to rotate what is an impressive attack. Although Bonner Maher is not the scorer in chief, curbing his influence is vital.

Limerick’s half back unit is the most experienced line of the team and here-in could lie the winning of the game.

All three need to dominate and few will argue the magnitude of the characters that McNamara, O’Brien and O’Mahony possess.

Getting on the forward foot early will be the target of both.

While all appears positive on the Tipperary side of the border it is not long ago that there was much doom and gloom about the future of those in blue and gold. Therefore the quest is to raise their doubts.

If the Limerick team is along expected lines, Kevin Downes will return to the team and along with Graeme Mulcahy carry a major goal scoring threat.

Many will think it crazy to suggest Limerick can win but to be honest fully understanding the form of either team is near impossible given the period since the league.

Limerick supporters can, for now, only trust in their players.

While form was below par in the league, they were still mere minutes from winning promotion.

Any discontent in GAA circles does not fall at the feet of the players, who have been diligent in their preparation.

Therefore they deserve every support they got in the Gaelic Grounds last Summer.

Championship is championship and lets not go to Thurles without optimism.

If Limerick can back their preparation with pride and passion and then it’s in the lap of the gods.