Improving Limerick ready to test favourites Kilkenny’s mettle
But superior strength on the bench could tilt the balance in favour of Brian Cody’s side
Limerick will require top-notch displays from the likes of Paul Browne, here scoring a goal against Wexford, if they are to prevail on Sunday. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Last week I wrote about interpreting the pre-match signs in an effort to determine your team’s state of readiness for battle.
This time last year Limerick travelled to Dublin on Saturday afternoon for their All-Ireland semi-final. As far as I could decipher the signs were all good. On the Saturday night we had a table quiz and there was a fair bit of banter among the players and backroom staff. On Sunday morning I can’t say I noticed any difference. This was a team who were in a state of readiness for battle.
The warm-up “sign” spotters were aware of what was going to unfold as soon as the game got underway. They told us so in Monday’s press. They should have told me beforehand.
Unfortunately for Limerick the opening quarter was riddled with mistakes and underperformance. It set the tone for the rest of the game. Clare ran out deserving winners.
This weekend they make the journey again, all a year older with last year’s experience etched into their psyche. Last year the youth and exuberance of the “new” Clare team on the block caused surprise after surprise on their way to the ultimate prize and their performance against Limerick was almost flawless.
This year, though, the opposition needs no introduction. Kilkenny have been the princes of hurling for the last decade and the Limerick hurling camp is fully aware of that.
Fairly impressiveKilkenny have been fairly impressive all year. They are champions of all the competitions they’ve played in. They have a management and manager who have rarely if ever started the same 15 in any game so far this season. They have “managed” Henry Shefflin very well. He has seen game time in almost all of the games and yet he hasn’t played a major part in any of the successes. But he still remains a key component in Kilkenny’s drive back to the top.
The last time Limerick played Kilkenny in the quarter-final two years ago corner back Stephen Walsh (a top quality player in my estimation) was the chosen weak link by Mr Cody. As often done before he placed King Henry in the left corner of the attack and with 20 minutes gone he had two goals scored.
In late September they collected the Liam McCarthy cup for the the seventh time in 10 years.
Last year there were many signs that their dominance was coming to an end. And it did. They stumbled through the championship and fell in Thurles against Cork. It seemed on that day that the golden era was over.
On the evidence of what we’ve seen so far this year we have to keep the Kilkenny obituaries on the hard drive for a little while longer.
Limerick have a good team with a number of very promising minors almost ready to bolster the senior squad, but on Sunday they go to battle with more or less the same group of players as last year. They were superb against Wexford.