John Allen backs Tipperary and Kilkenny to meet in hurling league final
Limerick manager believes loss of Eoin Kelly will not hamper Premier plans
So many unanswerable questions as we peer over the precipice at the 2013 hurling championship.
Here’s another one. Can those moments of excellence produced by the Dublin hurlers in 2011 manifest themselves into a perfect storm?
Limerick manager John Allen is well placed to discuss the matter.
On Sunday, in Thurles, Anthony Daly’s men face the county that dunked them back under water when they had the temerity to suck in the rarefied oxygen of an All-Ireland semi-final two seasons ago.
This weekend’s Allianz League semi-final is hardly a comparable peak but, still, a dance in Semple Stadium against Tipperary is as good a place as any to check the oil before the planned road trip to September hurling.
Allen hopes Dublin are good enough to compete with the elite after a winter scrambling through Division One B. Allen, who guided his native Cork to an All-Ireland in 2005, needs to believe that Dublin can do more than just compete because his players are tasked with felling Tipp in the Munster championship on June 9th.
It’s simplistic pre-championship logic; Dublin beat Limerick in the One B final so Dublin must at least trouble Tipperary for Limerick to have any hope.
“For Limerick it is year three of the present set-up, for Dublin it is year five of Anthony Daly being there and the professionalism he brings,” says Allen, who also notes a regressive element of Daly’s tenure. Tomás Brady is a prime example of a guaranteed starter turning his back on hurling to fight tooth and nail for a role in Jim Gavin’s football set-up.
“The exceptional dual players seem to be going with the football, which is definitely a disadvantage.
“Whether Dublin are good enough or not remains to be seen. Being out of One A is definitely a disadvantage. They went into last year’s league [as defending champions] with great expectations but ended up [getting relegated] with a whimper. There were a lot of injuries so we were all expecting them to be much better in the championship and they weren’t.
“Have they improved that much this year? I think they have but maybe that is because I want to believe they have because of the way it would reflect on Limerick.
“It’s hard to know,” Allen continues. “They were really efficient against us in Croke Park, apart from scoring, and then you saw them the second day against us, on the back foot certainly for the first half, but when the chips were down they stayed with us and ground out a victory.
“That’s what you want to see when teams are equally matched. We saw it in the All-Ireland final last year and semi-finals over the last few years; grinding it out. A lot of the games are being decided in the last 10 minutes. Unless you get Kilkenny on a good day, when they decide it in the first 10 minutes.”
The current league structure sees Limerick mired in the second tire for three years now.
Allen recently spoke eloquently and passionately about it in his native tongue on Seó Spóirt .
Here’s the English version.
Need for progress
“If we want to stay with the status quo of two or three teams dominating then leave the league the way it is but if you want to progress hurling and develop a few more teams they have to be playing a more games against top opposition. Or else it stays the same; Kilkenny keep winning, Cork come up now and then, Tipp come up now and then. And that’s it.
“It’s not satisfactory at all in my eyes.”
As usual summer comes rushing in and everyone moves swiftly on, leaving that sore to fester.
Allen believes Tipperary will win on Sunday yet he also feels the loss of a hamstrung Eoin Kelly cannot be glossed over.
“Tipp have made incremental progress from the opening league game in Páirc Uí Rinn when they were a team devoid of any shape at all.
“They have a lot of very good players, probably the most top quality hurlers from any county in Munster, many of whom won an All-Ireland (2010) when still under-21.
“But what’s impressed me over the last number of weeks is the influence still of Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett, and of course Pádraic Maher, but the two forwards have shown again when Tipp are playing well it’s because those guys are influential. Eoin will be a loss on Sunday.”
Generous to a fault with his time, we promise to leave him be once he calls Kilkenny against Galway.
“Like Tipperary, Kilkenny have started slowly. Win an All-Ireland, start later than other teams, but sure enough they are where they want to be. A league semi-final. They are the number one team, the team to be admired, copied and beaten, if you can.
“Galway haven’t pushed on to where we expected they might be at this stage after last year’s All-Ireland campaign. They have the players, the work rate but we know what Kilkenny are, and whether Brian Cody is on the line or not, or Henry Shefflin is fit, they won’t be beaten easily.”