Limerick unchanged for the showdown with Clare
But very strong substitutes’ bench could again prove vital for manager John Allen’s side
Donal O’Grady will captain Limerick against Clare at Croke Park on Sunday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Limerick hurling manager John Allen has resisted any temptation to change his team for Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Clare – sticking with the same starting 15 that overcame both Tipperary and Cork in the Munster championship.
Indeed the five-week break since the Munster final win over Cork has afforded certain players carrying injuries the opportunity to retain full fitness, including corner forward Sean Tobin, who had been nursing a broken metatarsal and tendon injury in his foot, yet has sufficiently recovered by now to retain his starting place.
With a place in the All-Ireland final against Cork at stake, Allen was always likely to stick to his winning formula as much as possible. Top-scorer Declan Hannon, who has hit 0-17 in the two games so far, is again named at full forward, with Paul Browne named at midfield alongside captain Dónal O’Grady.
Kevin Downes (broken toe), Shane Dowling (shoulder) are also sufficiently recovered from their injuries to be listed, as expected, among the substitutes.
Allen has also been talking this week about the tactical battle with Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald: “I won’t say a game of chess but we will both need to be very tactically aware of what the other is doing,” said Allen.
“We have discussed that with the players before the last two games. Things happen in games, a corner-forward comes out to midfield or a centre-forward comes out a bit. You saw the last day when Clare played a sweeper and Galway never seemed to use their spare man in the half-back line properly.
“We have discussed that often enough with the players now that they know what to do if a corner-forward comes out to midfield, or if they are trying to isolate players, which Clare have tried to do in the last two games. Up to a month ago Tony Kelly was being written up as the playmaker but now you’re adding Podge Collins into that.
“They were very good against Galway, very good for the under-21s. We need to ensure that they’re not getting quality ball in there and scoring points from 80 yards out.”
Yet one of Allen’s the most successful tactics to date is his use of substitutions, all carefully considered along with his selectors John Kiely, Eamon Mescall and Donnacha O’Donnell.
A year ago, in the Munster quarter-final of 2012, Limerick appeared to have the better of Tipperary for long periods, only to be undone by the superior impact of Tipperary’s replacements.
This June, however, things worked out the other way around, as all five Limerick substitutions helped call a halt to Tipperary’s dominance in the half-back line, contributing three vital scores in the process.
Likewise in the Munster final win over Cork, Allen once again called on all five substitutes at crucial moments, who this time contributed six points in the 0-24 to 0-15 victory.
Sunday’s game, which will be preceded by Limerick’s involvement in the minor semi-final too, against Galway, will, no matter who wins, set up the first all-Munster All-Ireland final since 1997, when Clare beat Tipperary.
Indeed Cork’s win over Dublin in last Sunday’s first semi-final means the final will be a repeat of either this year’s Munster semi-final (where Cork beat Clare, 0-23 to 0-15), or the Munster final itself (where Limerick beat Cork 0-24 to 0-15).
LIMERICK (SH v Clare): N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, T Condon; P O’Brien, W McNamara, G O’Mahony; P Browne, D O’Grady (capt); D Breen, J Ryan, S Hickey; G Mulcahy, D Hannon, S Tobin. Subs: A Murphy, M Carmody, C King, A Dempsey, S Dowling, C Allis, N Moran, K Downes, P Aherne, T Quaid, T Ryan.