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Tipperary hoping to wipe the slate clean as they get ready for the champions

With just one win in 11 matches since they last beat Limerick in the league, Tipp look to draw a line in the sand

It was this month six years ago that Tipperary last won a league match against Limerick. John Kiely was in his second year as manager and this Saturday, as the fixture moves to Cork because of development work on the TUS Gaelic Grounds, he will again be on the Limerick sideline, now in his eighth season in charge and with five All-Irelands and three league titles racked up during that period.

Kiely will be facing his fourth Tipp manager in that time but a familiar face in Liam Cahill, who managed Waterford for three years when they were regarded as Limerick’s biggest obstacle.

In 2018, Limerick had achieved what many believed was their main objective, getting promoted from Division 1B of the league, eight years after they had been relegated into it. They proved unexpectedly sticky for Tipperary to beat in the semi-final and it took extra time.

That wouldn’t be the main reason why the year registers in Limerick, as the following August they won their first All-Ireland in 45 years, defeating Tipperary in the inaugural year of the round-robin provincial championships.


Since that watershed season, they have hardly stopped winning All-Irelands – or beating Tipperary.

There have been 11 matches between them during that time and Tipp have won just one, the Munster championship round robin in 2019 when Limerick rested players and more devastatingly, within two weeks, avenged that defeat in a 12-point provincial final riposte.

Unbelievable as it might have appeared that day, Tipperary recovered to exploit Kilkenny’s ambush of Limerick in the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final and go on to lift Liam MacCarthy.

The six-year sequence includes two draws, the most recent last May in Thurles in a cracking match that came at a time when Limerick were looking vulnerable and Tipperary, promising – in fact it was the high point for both of those ultimately deceptive trends.

They also drew at the start of the 2021 league when Covid was still a presence and Limerick All-Ireland champions, just back from the break and the shared spoils were felt to reflect more poorly on the challengers.

Tipperary have had a lively start to the season under Cahill and they sit second in the table on full points, separated from this weekend’s opponents by only scoring difference.

The switch of venue will awaken uneasy memories for the team, who have had two memorable matches against the champions in the Cork venue. The first came on their opening defence in the winter championship of 2020, on a November evening when the rain cascaded down on Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Limerick had the advantage of a quarter-final under their belt and led from the first minute to win by nine in an otherwise empty stadium.

Nicky English played 15 years for Tipperary and it was only in the last two championships that he lost to Limerick

Even more demoralising, seven months later, Tipp threw the kitchen sink at their opponents in the first half of a Munster final in Cork, watched by the maximum allowed 7,000, and having played exceptionally, led by 10. Manager Liam Sheedy said that, “Our first 35 minutes were as good as we have ever played. I thought we were outstanding”.

Within 17 minutes, Kyle Hayes had scored “that goal” and Tipp were flapping in the hurricane of a 15-point turnaround.

The counties have actually played just three times since, the competitive but decisive Limerick win in 2022, last year’s battling league semi-final defeat for Tipp and the championship draw.

It is a feature of the matches between Tipperary and Limerick down the years that superiority goes in waves.

Nicky English played 15 years for Tipperary and it was only in the last two championships that he lost to Limerick.

There have been more tit-for-tat sequences in the rivalry along the way but it is noticeable looking at it that there are also long unbroken runs of success. The year before English made his debut for the county, Limerick completed a seven-match unbeaten run going back to 1973.

When he managed Tipperary, English was unbeaten in his four-year tenure against Limerick as part of a nine-fixture, 10-year run from June 1997. That these tyrannies eventually have to end is certain but until it happens, it’s strictly a background reassurance.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times