Cork capable of capitalising on unexpected momentum at Limerick’s expense
Limerick capable of winning first Munster in 17 years but Rebels look more likely going forward
Cork’s Daniel Kearney was an influential figure at midfield against Clare in the semi-final. Photograph: Lorcan O’Sullivan/Inpho
A fascinating hurling season reaches one of its landmark occasions with a quite unexpected Munster final. There was no querying the merit of both Cork’s and Limerick’s semi-final wins but the counties jet into tomorrow’s match at the Gaelic Grounds leaving little in the way of vapour trails behind them.
This weekend adjustments have to be made for the crushing loss to Cork of Brian Murphy, whose marking job on Tony Kelly was one of the big coups of the semi-final win and the return of Lorcán McLoughlin and Patrick Cronin to centrefield and wing forward respectively.
Limerick have made steady progress over the past three years and shown they have a good team and plenty of heart. John Allen’s development of a serviceable bench was a further improvement and a major influence on the semi-final, as they eyeballed a decent Tipp lead going into the final quarter and outscored the champions 0-9 to 0-2.
Limerick have had the sense of a team bubbling under and they got to the boil in their semi-final, powered by the momentum of their growing confidence, the impact of the replacements and the forest-fire enthusiasm blazing away amongst their increasingly convinced supporters.
Cork’s rites are more ancient. Surprise victories are supposed to act like the alchemist’s stone, turning unconsidered teams into swaggering collectives. Alchemy isn’t a fashionable strategy in these days of data-based conclusions and Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s team is beginning to showcase young talent. Nonetheless the galvanic effect of both the unexpected win over Clare and the opening-up of the championship elsewhere are powerful motivations.
In an almost impossibly close call the preference here is for Cork. There may be reservations about the defence in Murphy’s absence. But the experience the last day will benefit the full backs – and will need to because Limerick may not waste the goal chances afforded Clare the last day.
But that cuts both ways. It took exceptional shot stopping by Nicky Quaid to prevent Tipperary scoring goals in the other semi-final.
Cork’s corner backs were steadier than full back Stephen McDonnell the last day but he ultimately survived despite what Darach Honan looked likely to do early on.
That suits Cork, as Limerick’s corner forwards Graeme Mulcahy and Seán Tobin are dangerous whereas Declan Hannon’s best position is not full forward.
A fired-up Cork attack will be far more of a menace to Limerick than Tipperary’s proved. Cork’s impressive half forwards threw several spanners into the works of a half-back line supposed to be Clare’s best. A win for either side would not be a surprise but the force looks slightly more with Cork.