John Horgan: Munster hurling magic will signal the start of summer

Our hurling columnist tips Limerick and Clare to get off to winning starts next weekend
John Horgan: Munster hurling magic will signal the start of summer

Darragh Fitzgibbon of Cork in action against Seadna Morey of Clare during the 2018 Munster Hurling final at Semple Stadium. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

THE provincial football championships, outside of the Ulster campaign, might have lost a lot of their gloss but, thankfully, the same cannot be said where hurling is concerned.

There is a school of thought which believes that all the rest are playing for second place in the race for the Liam McCarthy Cup, such is the dominance that Limerick have exhibited over the past couple of years and are continuing to exhibit.

Only time will tell whether that will be the case or not over the coming months but the chasing pack in Munster and Leinster will be doing their utmost to change that very successful narrative.

The national league has been put to bed now, the phoney war that some like to describe it will be quickly consigned to the outer regions of the memory bank and that will begin next weekend with the beginning of the two provincial campaigns.

The main focus in our neck of the woods will be on how things will unfold in the Munster arena, who will be the three counties extending their Summer?

Four of the five go into battle next Sunday, Limerick taking on Waterford in Semple Stadium and Clare hosting Tipperary in Cusack Park.

Waterford supporters are losing out this season because the four games that Davy Fitzgerald's team will play are outside their own county because of development works in Walsh Park.


Cork had to give up home advantage against Clare last season, the game being played in Thurles because of the Ed Sheeran concert at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and we all know what the outcome of that game was, the Banner blitzing Cork in the opening half before securing the victory.

Many believed that by having to give up home advantage in that game was going to cost Cork dearly thereafter but, to be fair, they reinvented themselves to see off Waterford and Tipperary and make it through to the All-Ireland campaign.

It remains to be seen how Waterford will fare out now without any home advantage and they face a mammoth task next Sunday in trying to halt the Limerick bandwagon.

There won't be a pundit in the country who will be in their corner but that's the type of scenario that Davy Fitz thrives on. He always carries the underdog tag lightly and usually comes up with something different in trying to counteract the red-hot favouritism of the opposition.

On the outside looking in, Waterford appeared to not give the league any great importance, not showing their hand to any great extent before they set sail on the Munster voyage.

Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett and James Power of Waterford in high-flying action earlier this year. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett and James Power of Waterford in high-flying action earlier this year. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

The expectation now is that Davy will have something up his sleeve against the country's best team by a country mile and that might be fascinating to watch.

No county can be dismissed out of hand and Waterford teams in the past delighted in upsetting the odds that were stacked against them.

Going back in time, they shocked Cork in 1967 when Cork were reigning All-Ireland champions and they did it again in 1974, both games being played in Walsh Park. After winning last season's league, Waterford looked the best bet to end Limerick's dominance such was the manner that they hurled throughout the secondary competition. However, before they knew what happened, their championship season collapsed and they failed to make it out of the province.

There was some surprise when Davy Fitz returned as team boss to succeed Liam Cahill, the theory being that you should never go back.

That might be the case but the Clare man is a vastly experienced manager and a successful one too as he has illustrated in the past.

And there's not a better motivator in the game.

However, despite the presence of quality hurlers like Tadgh De Burca, Jamie Barron, Dessie Hutchinson, Stephen Bennett, Conor Prunty and newcomer, Patrick Fitzgerald, Waterford don't really measure up in the resources stakes that Limerick possess and it would be a huge shock if they get anything out of this game.

What Davy will be prioritising outside of a victory is a solid display that can be built upon when they visit Páirc Uí Chaoimh a week later. They'll probably lose on Sunday but they can lay the foundation for a very positive campaign thereafter.


The game in Cusack Park contains huge potential, a Tipp team that performed very well in the league at times, particularly against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park hoping for a run of games that will be in stark contrast to last season when they lost all four in the province.

They were blown out of the water in the league semi-final by Limerick but the latter are doing that to most teams right now. Tipperary are still relying a lot on the old guard of players like Noel McGrath, Seamus Kennedy Bonner Maher and others although the form of Jason Forde was sublime throughout the league.

Liam Cahill will need Jake Morris to be more consistent and newcomer Alan Tynan to continue his very impressive league form.

Clare appeared to be in second gear in a lot of their play during the league but they'll be a different story on Sunday at a packed Cusack Park.

Apart from their heavy defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final, the Banner had some very good days last season, particularly against Limerick and that is what Brian Lohan will be trying to replicate.

Once more so much will depend on the outstanding qualities of Tony Kelly and others like Aidan McCarthy, John Conlon, Peter Duggan and Ryan Taylor must be at the forefront. Home advantage could be key here and the likelihood is that this will be a good, old-fashioned game of Munster championship hurling.

In the past, we would not be even talking about the Munster championship so early but everything changes.

But one thing that rarely changes is the ferocity of that championship and this year should not be an exception.

Verdicts: Limerick to see off Waterford, Clare to get past Tipperary.

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