Gaelic GamesPreviews

Limerick and Wexford not the only ones with it all on the line on final Sunday

Leinster and Munster round-robins come to a conclusion on Sunday with Joe McDonagh Cup final on Saturday


Joe McDonagh Cup final

Carlow v Offaly, Croke Park, 4.45 [Live, RTÉ2] – Offaly’s new age is bringing plenty of milestones from last year’s wafer-thin brush with a minor All-Ireland to last week’s Leinster under-20 title. Now the tide lifts the senior boat back into the MacCarthy Cup for the first time in five years.

Carlow aren’t to be taken lightly and beat the second team Johnny Kelly sent out for the last group stage match 1-29 to 0-14, Offaly having already qualified. They also lost to Carlow last year with no selection issues but the team is supplemented with a couple of the victorious under-20s and are favourites to win their first McDonagh Cup. Verdict: Offaly


Leinster SHC round 5


Westmeath v Antrim, Cusack Park, 2.0 – A match that always had significance from the moment the schedule was released has taken on new and dramatic implications. Westmeath’s unbelievable comeback last week leaves Wexford’s status hanging by a thread should Antrim win this.

On the basis of the matches so far, the Ulster men have to be favoured unless Joe Fortune’s team get a huge bounce out of last week. They have experience of negotiating this stage, having beaten Laois last year and with Niall Mitchell and Niall O’Brien rampant last week. The visitors will be forewarned. Verdict: Antrim

Dublin v Galway, Croke Park, 2.0 [RTÉ2] – Dublin have a decent record against Galway since the Connacht county arrived in Leinster. The team’s and management’s decision to play in Croke Park paid off against Wexford and they will hope to emulate the 2021 result. Galway are however unlikely to be as poor as that day and they too will fancy playing at HQ, as they will hope to see out their championship there.

There are no All-Ireland qualification issues at stake apart from a place in the Leinster final with Dublin retaining hope should they win and Kilkenny get something down in the southeast. Donal Burke was phenomenal against Wexford but their incontinent shooting of wides was a big help. Galway can make history by beating Dublin in Croke Park for the first time. Verdict: Galway

Wexford v Kilkenny, Wexford Park, 2.0 – Having dropped a point to Westmeath last year, Wexford rebounded with such vigour that they turned over the champions on their home patch. Little were they to know that 12 months later they would face McDonagh Cup Armageddon if they didn’t beat Kilkenny again. This season they haven’t looked likely to achieve that even before losing to Westmeath.

Yet no one is comfortable writing off the prospect. A big crowd is expected and lots of tickets have been sold. This is crucial and Wexford’s players have had a good record against Kilkenny and have lost just twice in their last six championship meetings but Derek Lyng’s team come fully stacked so it will be a huge challenge for the home side. Verdict: Kilkenny

Munster SHC round 5

Tipperary v Waterford, Semple Stadium, 4.0 [Live, GAAGO] – Tipperary have been the star turn in Munster, recovering from the low base of last year to put in performances of verve and spirit, leaving them the only unbeaten side in the province and needing just a result here to join Clare in the final.

Waterford’s form has deteriorated since giving the first intimation of Limerick’s fallibility in the first round. With nothing to play for, they arrive in Thurles to take on a buoyant home team that has managed to get by without key forward Jason Forde, largely through the pacey interventions of Jake Morris and Mark Kehoe but also a team working hard, orchestrated by Noel McGrath and buttressed by Bryan O’Mara anchoring the defence. It’s a potent brew, which should leave Waterford with another hangover. Verdict: Tipperary

Limerick v Cork, Gaelic Grounds, 4.0 [Live, RTÉ2] – In the madness of the Munster championship, Limerick’s slight tuning difficulties have had a massive knock-on effect. If you strip out Waterford, the other counties have hardly anything between them. For the fourth time, we are probably taking on trust the champions’ ability to get the job done despite a failure to win two of their three matches to date.

An unanticipated problem for Limerick has been the tightness of their panel and its difficulty in absorbing loss of form. Opponents Cork have been unusually unwilling to accept that their day is done just because it’s cloudy and have struck for salvation in goals but they needed them against both Tipp and Clare to compensate for matches going against them.

They were also the only team to beat Limerick in the league and successfully raided the Gaelic Grounds in the 2019 championship even if more recent years were unforgiving. They have pace and goal threat but can they compete in the middle third where Limerick are still battling to hold the line? On paper it’s a very close call. Verdict: Limerick

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times