Tony Considine: Facing into a Munster final repeat heaps pressure on Limerick

Tony Considine: Facing into a Munster final repeat heaps pressure on Limerick

Cian Lynch of Limerick is hounded out over the line against Waterford. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

THIS All-Ireland brings back a memory for me of 1997 when Clare and Tipperary met in the final that year, having met earlier in the Munster decider. 

It was the first year of the backdoor All-Irelands. Even though we had beaten Tipperary in the Munster final, a great game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, we had to play them again in the All-Ireland final. 

The one thing I will never forget was the massive pressure we felt going into that final. It was the worst pressure we ever felt, having to face a team we had already beaten. 

Declan Ryan of Tipperary and Seanie McMahon of Clare in 1997. Picture: INPHO/Patrick Bolger
Declan Ryan of Tipperary and Seanie McMahon of Clare in 1997. Picture: INPHO/Patrick Bolger

The fear factor, both for the management and players, was intense. It was hard enough to beat them once. And now to have to take them on in the biggest game of all. 

When it really mattered that was a very heavy load on all our shoulders. Luckily enough we just held on by the skin of our teeth. 

Even though we were the better team, pressure can do a lot of things, especially when you are favourites.

I believe Limerick are in the same situation, having already accounted for Waterford in the Munster final. I would say John Kiely and his management team are feeling real the heat this week.

Waterford’s Stephen Bennett with Seamus Flanagan of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Waterford’s Stephen Bennett with Seamus Flanagan of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

However, I think the ones to feel it most will be the players, having to repeat what they have done in the Munster final. I'm sure, when they won that game, they did not think they would be facing the same opposition or maybe hoping they wouldn't be, in the All Ireland final. 

They are now and they have had to adjust to that in the build-up. No matter how good you are, playing and beating a team twice in the championship can be a very difficult task.

Anyway, to the game itself, Limerick are still hot favourites, whether they like it or not. I'm sure John Kiely will know that they will have to improve from the Galway game, and the big question is, can they do that? 

Most teams know how Limerick play, and it's ok knowing that, but it is another thing trying to stop them. Limerick use a possession game and that starts with their goalkeeper Nicky Quaid with his puck-outs.

Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Limerick goalkeeper Nickie Quaid. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

He can go short, which he does quite a lot, but he nearly always plays the ball in his own half to his defenders or to his two half-forwards, Tom Morrissey and especially Gearoid Hegarty. 

These two spend two-thirds of their time in their own half of the field. This is a tactic that Paul Kinnerk has brought to this team. It's a football-style approach, and Paul has a football background, having played with Limerick in that code. 

This approch works very well for Limerick. 

Another tactic is to get Declan Hannon and especially Diarmuid Byrnes on the ball as often as they can so that they can score from long-range. Byrnes is very good at shooting from distance, and Hannon can do likewise but not as often. 

Freeing up these players is a big plus for Limerick, and of course, it makes a lot of room for Aaron Gillane and Graham Mulcahy up front. Now, Gillane and Mulcahy were not in top form against Galway, but I am sure they will be well up for this because Limerick have a very strong bench. 

I am sure if they are not doing it, that changes will happen fairly fast.

Now, how are Waterford, and Liam Cahill, going to counteract that? 

Centre-back Tadhg de Búrca is the best player in that position in the country, strong, reads the game very well, and is an excellent leader. He will have his hands full if Cian Lynch is centre-forward so the debate here with this Waterford half-back line is how they set up. 

Do Kevin Moran and Calum Lyons follow the two danger-men, Morrissey and Hegarty, up the field to stop them getting possession? I believe Waterford need to do something like this and trust the rest of their defence to do their job. 

If they can pull it off they will have stopped one of Limerick's key strengths. 

And with Jamie Barron at midfield, Waterford have one of the best operators in the country. Still, he needs help there, a big area for Waterford. 

Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Barron seems to be doing a lot on his own this season, a return to his best form. He is well able, but I think it a crucial choice whoever will partner him at midfield, as Limerick will obviously be out to keep Barron quiet.

The Waterford attack will need to be taking this Limerick defence on at every opportunity. They have the pace to do that, and as Galway proved at times in the semi-final running at this defence is the way to do it. 

Austin Gleeson and Dessie Hutchinson have the class and the ability to take this Limerick full-back line on. Also, Jack Fagan is a real workhorse in the half-forward line. 

I suppose the standout player for Waterford this year has to be Stephen Bennett. I have never seen him as fit as he is this year, and he is running straight at defenders now which of course they do not like. 

He is very much the go-to player for Waterford. He's a fantastic free-taker, and well able to score from play, especially goals. He will take some watching.

Waterford are playing very direct hurling this year, but they cannot afford a bad start like they had against Kilkenny. They need to be at this from the get-go to the finish because you can be sure Limerick will be. 

Actually, I did not predict these two teams to be in the final. 

While a lot of people would have predicted Limerick to be there, I don't think anyone fancied Waterford to be this far, but they are here on merit. I remember going back a few years ago, there were some great contests between Limerick and Waterford at minor level, and not a lot between them, including a replay. 

Limerick's Andrew La Touche Cosgrave and Darragh O'Donovan tackle Colm Roche of Waterford in the 2013 minor clash. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Limerick's Andrew La Touche Cosgrave and Darragh O'Donovan tackle Colm Roche of Waterford in the 2013 minor clash. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

There are a good few of these players in action again on this Sunday. Hopefully, they will produce a classic. 

Hurling needs it, and the country needs it.

WHO WILL WIN?

Now to my prediction. 

In the last decade, Kilkenny won four All Irelands, Tipp three and Clare, Galway and Limerick have one each. 

I think it would start the new decade off on a fine note if the men from Waterford could win this All-Ireland. 

To do that, they will have to play out of their skins. And if they have learned from the Munster final, and with Limerick feeling the pressure, I think Waterford could get over the line, but like ourselves in 1997, only just.

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