Limerick v Tipperary: Champions set to make it three from three

Shannonsiders will be far too strong for a Tipp team in transition
Limerick v Tipperary: Champions set to make it three from three

Limerick captain Declan Hannon tries to get past Tipperary's John O'Dwyer in last July's Munster SHC final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Inpho/Lorraine O'Sullivan

SUNDAY: Munster SHC: Limerick v Tipperary, TUS Gaelic Grounds, 2pm.

AFTER a near-overload of provincial hurling championship games over the last three weeks, this weekend sees just the one game taking place.

With the six-team Leinster SHC taking a break before the final two rounds and the third round of Munster games split across two weekends – Cork losing to Waterford last week, lest we forget – the only match is the repeat of last year’s Munster final.

If, at half-time in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on July 18, you had told anyone from Limerick or Tipperary that the Shannonsiders would be 1/12 shots the next time the counties met – and that with injury question-marks over four key forwards – you’d have been met with a few quizzical responses.

At that stage, Tipp led by ten points after hitting Limerick – who had dropped Aaron Gillane – for two goals in the first half. It was one of the biggest challenges faced by the Treatymen during John Kiely’s tenure but it was one they met with character and quality. By the time of the second-half water break, they had outscored Tipp by 1-10 to 0-1 and the gap only grew as the game went on. It was the first time a county had achieved three consecutive Munster hurling titles since Tipp did so from 1987-89.

How would the rest of the summer had transpired if Tipp had held on to take the crown? Would they have been able to produce two more performances to send Liam Sheedy off with another All-Ireland? Would Limerick have begun to question themselves? It’s impossible to know and it’s all moot, really.

Tipp couldn’t bounce back against Waterford and Sheedy departed. A restructuring of the team was needed, if not a near-full rebuild, something underlined by the retirement of Pádraic Maher. In contrast, Limerick went from strength to strength and the early part of 2022 has seen the counties’ graphs continue to diverge.

Without the need to take the league too seriously, Limerick invited tentative queries as to whether their crown was slipping but wins against Cork and Waterford, the teams beaten in last year’s final and semi-final respectively, firmly gave short shrift to any such notions. Right now, it looks like the only thing that might beat Limerick is a lengthening injury list but even that is being overcome. In any case, another win on Sunday will guarantee a Munster final spot, giving a chance for the niggles to heal. Cian Lynch won’t play any further part in the provincial championship but, as much as that is a blow, Limerick’s sights are set further down the road.

INEVITABLE

Even without Lynch, Peter Casey and Séamus Flanagan, a home win is just short of an inevitability according to the bookmakers and there’s little reason to doubt them, especially as a Tipp side in transition have been struck down with bad injuries of their own. Séamus Callanan was ruled out before the championship started and now he has been joined on the sidelines by Jason Forde, John McGrath and James Quigley. Sheedy’s successor Colm Bonnar certainly hasn’t enjoyed much in the way of good fortune.

Tipp have to get something if they are to survive in the championship – the same scenario that Cork will face into against Waterford a week later – but, in as much as they will show endeavour like they did in Walsh Park in the opening round, Limerick are much further down the road and are too well-drilled to allow in anything resembling complacency.

From a parochial point of view, Cork supporters should be hoping that the expected materialises, as an unlikely Tipp win would increase the field for third place and give the Premier County something to play for in Thurles on May 22.

That is of course on the large assumption that Cork might beat Waterford to have something to play for themselves. Right now, the smart money is on that game being a wooden-spoon play-off, with neither side having any points beforehand.

Cork will look to disprove that notion next weekend but, unfortunately for Tipp, it’s unlikely that they will do so on Sunday.

Verdict: Limerick.

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