Tipperary should be too hot for Limerick
If they can shake off the hits and run up the scores O’Shea’s men should prevail
Tipperary will be looking for a strong performance from Séamus Callanan when they take on Limerick in their Munster SHC semi-final in Thurles tomorrow. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Though we tend to see Tipp’s world through the lens of their meetings with Kilkenny, it’s Limerick who’ve been the canary in the coal mine for the past two seasons.
Just about getting away with a shoddy display in Thurles in 2012 was a portent of wobbly days to come; melting as the temperature rose in the Gaelic Grounds last year said nothing good about their chances in the subsequent qualifier against Kilkenny.
On both occasions, Limerick shook them and rattled them and generally made the needle slip the groove.
In last year’s game especially, the final 20 minutes boiled down to a very simple matter of who could win their own ball. In just about every battle for possession, the Tipp player was rocked on his heels. Limerick won that closing 20 minutes by 0-9 to 0-2.
It can be argued, then, that Eamon O’Shea’s task coming in here is actually reasonably straight-forward.
Tipp have the better group of players and if their gameplan clicks and they create enough space for themselves, they ought to run up a total well out of Limerick’s reach.
But games take on a life of their own and if it comes down to a rassle in the dirt – and Limerick should make sure it does – O’Shea’s side will be in trouble unless enough of his players to refuse to be beaten in individual battles.
TJ Ryan’s first championship game as Limerick manager wasn’t supposed to arrive like this but the post-league doings are done now and his players have been making made all the right noises. He has shaken up the team a little from the one that beat Tipp last year – Séamus Hickey’s repatriation to corner back with Shane Dowling in from the start at wing forward suggests a mite more attacking emphasis.
That said, you would imagine it’s probably not a great idea for Limerick to get drawn into a shoot-out.
A feature of last year was the totals that beat Tipperary weren’t huge – 1-18 for Limerick, 0-20 for Kilkenny. Limerick’s front six certainly has the guns for a decent score but then so do Tipp’s.
Make this game about a battle of big totals and it’s hard to see past O’Shea’s side. In fairness, it’s hard to see past them anyway. The lessons of the past two years must surely have been learned by now.
If this turns into a war, they can’t just rely on Bonner Maher – it’s not the kind of game Noel McGrath and Séamie Callanan thrive in but they’re big boys and Tipp need them to prove it. Do it now and it will stand to them for the rest of the summer.