Limerick’s Will O’Donoghue and Waterford’s Jack Prendergast struggle for possession. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Best team by far has won a second All-Ireland title in three years – with more likely to come

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson with Limerick’s Dan Morrissey during the Munster final. The  key question is: do I expect Limerick to improve? The answer is probably not. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Limerick will need to find an extra gear if they are to foil Cahill’s driven Déise side

All-Ireland hurling final 2020

Galway’s Seán Loftus shakes hands with Limerick’s Adrian Breen after the game. Photograph: Inpho

In the end over two days the established form line held and best sides to face off in fortnight

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson celebrates scoring his second goal against Clare during the All-Ireland quarter-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Hutchinson and Bennett give Waterford real hope; Galway’s fluctuation in performance a concern

Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe in action during their victory against Clare in the All-Ireland quarter-finals at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Galway as underdogs give them edge against Limerick, while Waterford will test Kilkenny

 Conor Whelan in action against Kilkenny in the Leinster final. Galway, despite ample possession,  have lacked a goal threat thus far. That could be costly against Tipperary. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Improving Déise can see off Clare’s potent threat in Saturday's All-Ireland quarter-final

Limerick’s Tom Morrissey contests a high ball with Waterford’s Tadhg De Burca. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Kilkenny and Tipp make significant moves in rejigging of championship pecking order

Galway’s Brian Concannon has been in impressive form for the 2017 champions. File photograph: Inpho

Will ‘third week syndrome’ kick in for Cork and the other qualifier teams down the line?

Limerick’s Pat Ryan and Barry Nash celebrate after the Munster semi-final victory over Tipperary at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Impressive Galway now look the best-equipped of the other All-Ireland contenders

Limerick’s Gearóid Hegarty, Cian Lynch and Declan Hannon tackle John O’Dwyer of Tipperary in last year’s Munster final. Tipperary will have to do a lot better in the middle third if they are to prevail on Sunday.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Cork, Kilkenny and Galway can also book their places in respective provincial deciders

Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick is challenged by Clare’s Tony Kelly at Semple Stadium. Both players turned in exceptional displays for their respective counties. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Will the lack of crowds and accompanying tension lead to open, high-scoring games?

Clare’s Jack Browne and Darragh O’Donovan of Limerick in action in their Munster Senior Hurling League Round 3 game at  Sixmilebridge, Co Clare on January 5th. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

A Limerick team of all the talents have a winning hand while Clare lack ball-winners

Brian and Frank Lohan of Clare  tackle Johnny Dooley of Offaly during the 1995 All-Ireland hurling final. Photograph:     Patrick Bolger/Inpho

Clare’s victory over Offaly is unrecognisable from the modern game in many aspects

Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer scores his side’s third goal past Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy in the  All-Ireland Senior Hurling final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

It was almost impossible to see where 14-man Kilkenny would manage to get a goal

John McGrath needs to deliver in the Tipperary forward line in Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Kilkenny. Photograph:  Tommy Dickson/Inpho

The two great rivals look to be reaching their peaks at just the right time ahead of final

Tipperary ahead of their All-Ireland semi-final win over Wexford. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

All-Ireland hurling final countdown: player-by-player analysis of Tipp’s starting XV

The Kilkenny squad ahead of their quarter-final win over Cork. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

All-Ireland hurling final countdown: player-by-player analysis of the Cats' XV

Tipperary’s Jake Morris, whose goal against Wexford was one of three disallowed.  Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Despite red card and three disallowed goals, Tipperary dug deep and came up trumps

Tempers flare between both sides early in the game. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

From the very start, Brian Cody’s team took the game to the All-Ireland champions

Limerick’s Peter Casey scores Limerick’s  opening goal  in the Munster final victory over Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds. Casey is delivering on his considerable potential this year. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Other semi-final is harder to call but Wexford’s momentum may be difficult to halt

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid battles with Stephen McDonnell of Cork during their All-Ireland SHC quarter-final at Croke Park. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho

Greater intensity in Leinster championship vindicated as brittle Cork are shattered

TJ Reid is Kilkenny’s main danger man. Who can look after him for  Cork? Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Cork have potential to reach semi-final but defensive issues leave door open for Kilkenny

 Kyle Hayes celebrates scoring a goal against Tipperary during the Munster final at the Gaelic Grounds. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Chastened Tipperary and Kilkenny must now regroup for their quarter-final tests

Tipperary’s John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer in action against Clare during the Munster SHC at Cusack Park in Ennis. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Time to alternate big finals on Saturday and Sunday so fans don’t lose out

Tipperary’s John McGrath eludes Limerick’s Richie English  during the Munster championship clash at Thurles. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Galway’s exit the big surprise following two brilliant final round-robin clashes in Leinster

TJ Reid: has been in superb form and will pose Wexford major problems in the crunch encounter at Wexford Park. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Home venue is a big advantage but they don’t quite have Kilkenny’s scoring potential

Cathal Mannion with Kilkenny’s Paddy Deegan at Nowlan Park. The Galway man gave a master class in forward play during the Leinster championship clash. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Champions have found their groove while Galway emerged unscathed from Nowlan Park

Tipperary’s Brendan Maher and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer celebrate after the convincing victory over Clare at Cusack Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Work rate, power and fitness as well as a classy forward line proves a potent combination

Limerick’s Peter Casey and Niall O’Leary of Cork during their clash at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Tipp’s work rate kept pace with their scoring which overwhelmed 14-man Deise

The emergence of the likes of  Conor Boylan shows the strength in depth Limerick have. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Munster champions’ defence needs radical surgery if they are to get back on track

Tipperary’s Séamus Callanan celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Cork in the Munster SHC  Round 1 match at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Difficult to see Cork recovering in time for their second match round against Limerick

Limerick’s Peter Casey and William O’Donoghue celebrate after their All-Ireland SHC final win at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Limerick had to show resilience to survive Galway's late show but they've been doing that all year

Limerick’s Sean Finn in action against Galway’s David Burke during the league clash at Salthill.  Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

At their best Galway will beat anyone but sustaining performance has been the issue

Galway’s Daithi Burke celebrates after the defeat of Clare at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

The fates and the woodwork of Semple Stadium conspired to end Clare's season

Clare’s Peter Duggan is tackled by Galway’s Paul Kileen during the drawn semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Tribesmen will need to improve their intensity and not be over-reliant on Glynn

John Kiely’s team proved amazingly resilient again when the match was in the balance

Limerick’s Dan Morrissey celebrates at the final whistle with Sean Finn (No 2) after the thrilling quarter-final victory over Kilkenny at Thurles. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

It’s hard to look beyond formidable Galway in the first semi-final at headquarters

Limerick’s Tom Morrissey and Kilkenny’s Martin Keoghan battle for possession during the All-Ireland quarter-final at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Manner of the impressive victory will work wonders for Kiely’s up-and-coming side

Cian Lynch has impressed in the middle of the park for Limerick. Photograph:  Morgan Treacy/Inpho

John Kiely’s side will be fresher but psychologically battle will also be key

Conor Whelan celebrates after Jonathan Glynn  scored Galway’s opening goal in the Leinster final replay at  Semple Stadium, Thurles. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Manner of the victory over Kilkenny clearly reasserted Tribesmen’s credentials

Galway’s Jonathan Glynn battles in the air against Kilkenny’s Cillian Buckley  during the Leinster final at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

All-Ireland race looks more open than ever as Cork edge Clare again in Munster final

Joe Canning: has been in impressive form again this year in a potent Galway attack and will most likely cause problems for Kilkenny on Sunday. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Champions can plant another flag while Clare’s transformation can see them claim Munster

Clare’s John Conlon and  Shane O’Donnell in action against Richie English of Limerick during the Munster championship clash at Cusack Park. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Sluggish Limerick’s momentum stalled as third game in a row perhaps took its toll

Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy and Tipp’s Jake Morris  watch on  as the  substitute’s shot hits  the post in a pivotal moment during yesterday’s game. Photograph: James Crombie

Errors and poor clearances from Tipperary lead to Clare goals and Tipp's exit

Galway’s Cathal Mannion. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Limerick perhaps best-placed to upset the champions’ title defence this year

Galway’s Joe Canning in action against Tommy Ryan of Waterford. Canning was flawless on the frees during his side’s win on Sunday in Croke Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

On an emotional day Micheál Donoghue’s team remained composed

Joe Canning: Tipperary paid the price for letting him drift; Waterford won’t take that chance. Photograph: Getty Images

Deise could exploit nervousness but MacCarthy Cup looks on way to Galway

Irish Times hurling analyst gives his lowdown on the Tribesmen ahead of Sunday’s final

Jamie Barron: the mobile Waterford midfielder  has played a key role with crucial goals in the defeats of both Kilkenny and Tipperary. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Traditional 15-a-side formation gives way as coaches try various set-ups with ‘extra’ man

Cork’s Patrick Horgan and Shane Fives of Waterford contest a high ball at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Waterford won all the key contests with Brick Walsh and Kevin Moran leading by example

Tadhg de Búrca: his absence is a major blow for Waterford as no-one else on the team is as comfortable in performing the role he has perfected. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Wide expanses of Croke Park will suit confident Rebels’ fast-moving game plan

Galway’s Joe Canning looks on after scoring the winning point against Tipperary at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Tipperary produced their best display in 2017 but it just wasn’t enough on the day

Gearóid McInerney attempts to bottle up  Patrick Maher in last year’s semi-final. Photograph: Inpho/Tommy Dickson

Champions picking up momentum but the favourites have been a model of composure

Waterford’s Michael Walsh and Shane Bennett in action with David Redmond and Shaun Murphy of Wexford at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Both Waterford and Tipperary looked unconvincing in their quarter-final victories

The new Páirc Uí Chaoimh is ready to host two intriguing All-Ireland quarter-finals this weekend. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Clare will struggle to win enough primary possession to dethrone the champions

Cork manager Kieran Kingston celebrates with selector Diarmaid O’Sullivan near the end of the Senior Hurling Championship Final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Younger players’ enthusiasm serves as inspiration for more experienced team-mates

Cork’s Seamus Harnedy during the Munster SHC semi-final against Tipperary. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Rebels have struggled defensively in recent years and will get first real test against Clare

Galway’s Joe Canning during the Leinster GAA senior hurling championship final, in Croke Park, Dublin. Photograph: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Tribesmen’s performance against Wexford proves it will take a lot to beat them this year

Conor Whelan: has been in impressive form for a potent Galway attack. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Micheál Donoghue’s team have the forwards to prevail in a high-scoring clash

Cork’s Stephen McDonnell vies with Waterford’s Shane Bennett at  Semple Stadium yesterday. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Nicky English: The sense of expectation surrounding Wateford was left disappointed

Waterford’s Shane Bennett with Mark Ellis and Colm Spillane of Cork. Waterford will need more from the two Bennetts and Patrick Curran to reach another level this year. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Questions surrounding Conor Lehane’s fitness can tilt the balance towards Déise

Wexford’s Lee Chin celebrates with fans after their victory over Kilkenny in the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship quarter-final at Wexford Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Fans at Wexford were put through the wringer as Kilkenny mounted a late charge

Richie Hogan: classy  forward will pose a huge threat to Wexford’s ambitions in the Leinster SHC semi-final at Innovate Wexford Park. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Wexford are well capable of winning in their home venue but wily Cats still get the nod

Limerick’s Richie English in action against Clare’s two-goal hero Shane O’Donnell at  Semple Stadium. Photograph: Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Forwards proved decisive against Limerick but winning primary possession an issue

 Conor McGrath could help tip the balance in Clare’s favour. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

If Clare are to be contenders they will certainly have to see off a weakened opposition

Galway’s Johnny Coen gets the measure of Tipp’s  Seámus Kennedy in the league final. Photograph: Inpho/Morgan Treacy

Kilkenny-Tipperary duopoly can be broken this year

Question and answer: Ronan Maher of Tipperary and Liam Blanchfield of Kilkenny at yesterday’s GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Huge All-Ireland final win justifies Tipp’s status as the best team in championship

Richie Hogan: one of the best players in the country and certain to be a key man for Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling final. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Tipperary's hot can see them beat Kilkenny but their cold won't be good enough

Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer celebrates his crucial goal against Galway with John McGrath at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Despite Waterford’s heroics, the best two teams will meet in next month’s final

Kilkenny’s Walter Walsh is tackled by Waterford’s Tadhg De Burca during last Sunday’s semi-final clash at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Cats’ goalscoring threat gives them edge while improving Tipp can end Galway hopes

Waterford manager Derek McGrath  said in a pre-match interview that his team had decided to go for it, and they came out with all guns blazing:  Photograph: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Plucky performances in the hurling match of the season

Austin Gleeson: one of the players Waterfor rely on to post scores from 70 or 80 yards  out the field.  Photograph:  Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

But regardless of what system Déise opt for, form suggests the champions will prevail

Clare’s Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin with David Burke of Galway. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

One of key differences for Galway on Sunday is that they possessed a real goal threat

 Wexford full-forward Conor McDonald was back to top form in his side’s victory over Cork two weeks ago. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Hurling championship quarter-finals look set to go down to wire as losers face trapdoor

Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Munster final is almost too close to call and could be game of season so far

John McGrath celebrates scoring a goal for Tipperary from a penalty against Waterford at Gaelic Grounds on Sunday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Waterford laid bare by use of flawed sweeper system at Gaelic Grounds

Kilkenny’s Walter Walsh tries to get away from Galway’s Cathal Mannion and Johnny Coen. Photograph: Ryan Byrne

Galway knew what Cats would do in second half but were still powerless to prevent it

Clare’s Shane O’Donnell tries to block down Waterford’s Austin Gleeson at Semple Stadium.  Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

League loss forgotten as Derek McGrath’s men are full value for their win over Clare

Clare’s Tony Kelly tries to elude Waterford’s Jamie Barron in the league final replay in Thurles. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Derek McGrath’s ability to adapt will be crucial to county’s ambitions this summer

Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan and Damian Cahalane of Cork in the Munster quarter-final at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Photograph: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Tipperary were the only team on show at the weekend with All-Ireland ambition

Cork manager Kieran Kingston has downplayed his side’s chances against Tipperary in the Munster championship. Photo: Inpho

The two sides meet earlier than usual this year but that could prove perfect for Cork

Waterford’s Austin Gleeson crashes into team-mate Michael Walsh after catching a high ball over Clare’s David Fitzgerald and Brendan Bugler. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

National League final was played with kind of intensity expected from championship

Clare are very dependant on Conor McGrath who got very little support against Waterford last week in Thurles. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Ironically, losers at weekend could be better placed for the teams’ championship clash

Maurice Shanahan scores the equalising point with the last puck of the game. Photograph: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Shocking number of wides not likely to be repeated during next Sunday’s replay

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody: his record speaks for itself: 11 All-Irelands. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Cody gets 110 per cent out of players and has done it consistently . . . he is the Boss!

Galway’s Cathal Mannion celebrates after the final whistle. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

There’s a confidence emanating from the Flynns and the Mannions and it’s spreading

 Séamus Callanan: the Tippearary full forward did a lot of damage against Galway when the sides met  in last year’s championship. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill /

But Galway are a much improved team this year and will take a lot of beating

TJ Reid scores his side’s goal despite the presence of a thrown hurley at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

No matter how many All-Ireland medals they have won these players still want more

Maurice Shanahan has been key for Waterford, holding up possession superbly as the lone attacker. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Waterford need to hurl with abandon and be a bit smarter in their use the ball

Dublin’s Liam Rushe. Dublin will target Waterford in the physical stakes. Rushe, Chris Crummy, Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe and Mark Schutte are all big, powerful men. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

New Cork system suits them and they have a greater scoring threat than Galway

Waterford’s Stephen Bennett is tackled by Tipperary’s Cathal Barrett during the Munster hurling final at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Tipp will be relieved to have won the title but Waterford must adapt their game plan

Colin Dunford stays one step ahead of James Woodlock during  Waterford’s league semi-final win over Tipperary at Nowland Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Experience and forward power will prove crucial in Munster hurling final

Kilkenny’s TJ Reid scores a goal in the Leinster  Hurling Senior Championship final against Galway at Croke Park. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

‘When Galway put on what pressure they could, Kilkenny raised their game impressively’

Kilkenny’s Joey Holden in action against Wexford’s Conor McDonald. The full back will face a stiffer test against Galway’s Joe Canning at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Brian Cody’s champions to survive the test posed by rejuvenated Galway

Kilkenny’s Ger Aylward scores his third and his side’s fifth goal at yesterday’s Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Semi-Final, at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The manner of their wins should leave rest of the hurling fraternity worried

Tipperary will hope Padraic Maher gets on the front foot against Limerick. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Kilkenny face challenge this season but they have habit of finding right formula

Cork woes: Their subs made very little impact and  it’s hard to see how they can recover this summer. Photograph: Inpho/Cathal Noonan

Derek McGrath’s team going to take plenty of beating in 2015

Séamus Harnedy is an injury concern for Cork’s showdown with Waterford.

Injuries undermining both teams tomorrow but Cork have too big a gap to bridge in five weeks

Jason Flynn and Joe Canning of Galway chase a loose ball ahead of Dublin’s Cian O’Callaghan, goalkeeper Alan Nolan and Peter Kelly during the Leinster hurling quarter-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan.

Lacklustre displays at Croke Park just leaves plenty of room for improvement

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