John Horgan on hurling: Limerick and Clare will set up All-Ireland rematch

Semi-final crackers in Croke Park will thrill hurling fans this weekend
John Horgan on hurling: Limerick and Clare will set up All-Ireland rematch

Peter Duggan of Clare takes a sideline cut during the Munster final loss to Limerick in Thurles. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

WHATEVER transpires in the weekend’s All-Ireland hurling semi-finals, let’s hope that in their aftermath we won’t be talking about what went on in the Armagh v Galway football quarter-final last Sunday.

Firstly, it was a terrific game of football, one of the best we have witnessed this season and it was a pity that there was more spoken about the mass brawl at the end of regulation time and the subsequent penalty shootout than what happened on the field of play.

It was a shame that such a great game had to be decided by penalties; it’s the wrong way to decide a game of such magnitude.

Okay, everybody knew the rules beforehand, but surely when two amateur teams cannot be separated after 90-plus minutes, a replay, somehow, should have been pencilled in.

The inter-county season is much condensed now and that’s fair enough, but when it comes to quarter-finals and semi-finals, provision should be made for replays and not have a team go out on penalties.

The brawl was a shocking spectacle and again that could have been avoided by not having the two teams returning to the dressing rooms on the same side of the field at the same time.

The GAA will say that one team should have waited for the other to go in and then follow. Easier said than done when two sets of players are so fired up and wanting to go off the field as quickly as possible to regroup for the 20 minutes extra-time.

Rocket science isn’t required in situations like this.

Back to the hurling and the two All-Ireland semi-finals that will command huge attention over the next two days.

It’s a pity that there won’t be the heightened interest here on Leeside that there would have been if Cork were involved, as they were last season when they downed Kilkenny. This season is water under the bridge now for Cork and it’s all about Limerick, Clare, Galway, and Kilkenny this weekend.

The consensus is that Limerick will emerge victorious from their semi-final with Galway while Clare might be marginal favourites against Kilkenny.

If that comes to pass we would have a repeat of that epic Munster final between the near neighbours and that game would probably fill Croke Park twice over.

Oisín O'Reilly of Limerick retains possession, under pressure from David McInerney. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Oisín O'Reilly of Limerick retains possession, under pressure from David McInerney. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Of course, there’s no guarantee of such a happening and with any Kilkenny team in Croke Park at the business end of the season, everybody else has reason to be wary.

Maybe they are nowhere near the Kilkenny team that won the four-in-a-row and the favourites’ tag does not accompany them like it once did.

However, there is still a hard core of players on this Cats team who know what winning is all about and what needs to be done to win again.

What Kilkenny still have is a huge work-rate and intensity to succeed, something that every Kilkenny team that Brian Cody ever sent out had. They were not particularly great against Galway in the Leinster final and a 22-point return that day is low enough by modern-day hurling standards.

On the other side, Galway only registered 17 points with just seven arriving from open play. Any repeat of that against Limerick and they will be a well-beaten docket at the end.


Kilkenny don’t win All-Ireland semi-finals like they used, but this is their third one in three seasons and that experience and of playing in Croke Park so often, far more often than Clare in recent times, has to be a benefit.

But Clare have been wonderful this season, a breath of fresh air really, and when all seemed lost against Wexford they dug deep to secure the victory.

The Clare bench was influential against Wexford and Alan Shanagher turned the game in their favour.

Shane Meehan too made an impact on a day when Tony Kelly didn’t come into his own until the latter stages.

Shane O’Donnell is back to his best and Ryan Taylor is a troublesome individual for any opposition defence.

You never, ever write off a Kilkenny team but Clare look a more balanced unit with John Conlon marshalling the defence superbly. 

Galway are in the favourable position of knowing that everybody has written them off.

Perfect for Henry Shefflin and he’ll use that to their benefit, no doubt. And as we have stated previously, there’s one good game in a Galway hurling team every year and in the past that has been in All-Ireland semi-finals.

They have regained the bit of momentum that was lost in the Leinster final and beating any Cork team in the All-Ireland series has to be good for confidence, even if Cork threw away the game with the amount of chances that were squandered.

But let’s be honest, this is the best Limerick bunch of hurlers that have ever graced a GAA field.

They have enormous strength in depth, the most astute management team in the business, and the carrot of three-in-a-row is now huge.

In fact, they might easily be going for five-in-row.

Every great team loses eventually and Limerick’s day will come too, but the belief is that day is still a bit in the distance.

Simply put, all evidence suggests that they will be back in Croke Park again a fortnight later.

And there is every chance that we will get the second version of that enthralling Munster final.

Verdict: Limerick and Clare.

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