Limerick are an incredible team but Déise hurlers can embrace their destiny

Limerick are an incredible team but Déise hurlers can embrace their destiny

Jack Fagan of Waterford in action against Paddy Deegan of Kilkenny. The Meath man has really added to the Déise's depth. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SUNDAY: All-Ireland hurling final: Limerick v Waterford, Croke Park, 3.30pm.

NOT for the first time, the strength of Munster hurling will be illustrated again when two sides from the province contest for the ultimate prize.

We have had two Munster teams at headquarters on final days in the past, Tipp and Clare in 1997 and Cork and Clare in 2013 It is a huge achievement by both Limerick and Waterford next Sunday to be the last two standing.

The Munster championship is a minefield in itself and whether you win it or not, going forward can be difficult.

Limerick had to win three games in the province to be crowned champions but in doing so they secured their passage to the last four.

Waterford had the extra game outside the province and had to play on three consecutive weekends.

Dessie Hutchinson. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Dessie Hutchinson. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

That was a considerable ask but they came through with flying colours, particularly against Kilkenny when the odds were stacked against them when they trailed at one stage by nine points Limerick, without replicating the form they displayed in winning the Munster title, had to dig deep to see off Galway's challenge in their semi-final.

So, there can be no argument to brook about the two of them going head to head on Sunday.

Limerick have been most pundits' choice since the outset and they will be favourites.

Since losing to Kilkenny in last season’s semi-final there has been a huge focus within the camp to make things right this time and being very honest, they have given no reason at all why they should not be crowned champions again.

They have overcome the loss of Mike Casey and Richie English from their defence, made some big positional calls like switching Kyle Hayes and Cian Lynch. 

Cian Lynch. Picture: Sportsfile
Cian Lynch. Picture: Sportsfile

And despite losing Shane Dowling altogether, their bench remains as strong as ever as has been in evidence all along.

Tom Morrissey and Gearoid Hegarty have sparkled in attack and Aaron Gillane, an injury doubt, has grown in stature.

Their ability to pick off points from all distances and angles has been a feature of their play and back in defence, Diarmuid Byrnes has shown his capabilities. There are no weak links in the side.

Their scoring potential has been evident from the outset and there is always a balance to the side.

Waterford might be surprise finalists where a lot of people are concerned but they have certainly earned that right. They were more or less written off against Cork on day one but had far too much in the bag that day.

Down the middle, there is great depth with Conor Prunty really coming to the forefront this season. Calum Lyons has been terrific in the half-back line while Tadhg de Búrca is a contender for Hurler of the Year.

Jamie Barron is playing his best hurling for some time while Jack Fagan has really settled into the side around the 40.

Dessie Hutchinson has been a revelation at times while Stephen Bennett will be an All-Star too.

Austin Gleeson probably needs to be more consistent over the 70 minutes but can bring the team with him when he is on form.

And there is no shortage of talent on the bench, including Darragh Lyons and Niall Montgomery.

What each side learned about each other on the day of the Munster final will be very important and it’s often said that losers learn more and turn things around if there is a second meeting.

Goals will be of huge significance in this game, the conversion of frees and whoever can convert the more of them will probably win. Waterford have beaten two of the so-called big three in Cork and Kilkenny.

Pound for pound, Limerick are the best side in the country and they have leaders all over the place. Declan Hannon is one of them, Dan Morrissey too but Waterford have shown that as well.

Joe Canning and Dan Morrissey battling at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Joe Canning and Dan Morrissey battling at Croke Park. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

This Déise side is resilient, the heads don’t drop if things are not right and that second-half performance against Kilkenny was the best we saw from any side in this championship.

PREDICTION:

Limerick were not as good overall against Galway but still got the job done. However, Waterford appear to be ready now for anything that’s thrown at them. 

Yes, it’s Croke Park on the final day, a different story altogether and they will need a positive start. If they are very much in it coming into the final 20 minutes or so, they can end the long wait.

We’ll take a chance with them.

Verdict: Waterford.

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