Premier County hope to Tipp the balance in Munster opener against Limerick

Tipperary travel to the Gaelic Grounds to face Limerick on Sunday

TJ Ryan feels Tipperary will have to match Limerick in both the hurling and the physical stakes at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.

And the Tipperary selector, who has worked with Liam Cahill up through minor, under-20 and under-21, says the Premier County must be aware of Limerick’s powerplay in the last quarter of matches – as John Kiely’s men again demonstrated against Clare in Ennis last Sunday.

“Every game, if you watch them, you will stay with them for maybe 40-45 minutes, it’s the third quarter where Limerick kick on,” says the Clonoulty Rossmore clubman.

“It’s probably the physicality and power in them the whole time that is just taking the energy out of the other teams. They’re a fierce physical team, they have the hurling as well and they have their system and they just stick with it.”


The Limerick system is not exactly a mystery at this stage, but as Clare discovered last weekend their ability to steamroll opponents during periods of dominance remains formidable.

Clare led by nine points in Cusack Park, but the contest was dominated by Limerick in the last quarter – and the outcome was ultimately a 12-point swing.

“Knowing the system [is one thing] but to break down the system is another,” added Ryan. “Two things I see in Limerick – they’re a good hurling team and are a big, strong, physical team. It’s a huge advantage.

“They have a system going and they never change, they just play the same system. No matter who they’re playing, they never change it. They always seem to come out on top at the end.

“They’re such a huge, physical team, I didn’t believe it until last year, I walked out on the pitch and they have an awful lot of players who are 6ft 4in or 6ft 5in. Huge. You need physicality to take that on and you also need good hurlers, and they have it both ways.

“They’re just so used to playing this system they play, it’s unbelievable the way they carry the ball out of defence. It’s just to break it down is the thing, nobody has come up with the formula yet.”

Putting clearances down on top of the Limerick half-back line is certainly not a formula for success, as countless teams have found to their cost in recent seasons.

“If you give the ball away to them, the chance is they’ll create a score on the other side,” continued Ryan. “They just seem to be able to do that the whole time, they have the players inside as well to let the ball in. Their inside forwards are lethal, Aaron Gillane and Séamus Flanagan and Peter Casey, they’re all able to take their own scores.”

Tipp were able to sit back last Sunday and watch how the opening weekend of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship unfolded. Their fixture list pits them away to Limerick next Sunday, followed with an away trip to Waterford and then finishing up with home matches against Cork and Clare.

Starting their summer campaign against the reigning provincial and All-Ireland champions sees Tipp essentially faced with Becher’s Brook straight out of the stalls, but Ryan says the greater challenge will be the rapid refocus to prepare for Waterford the following weekend.

“You’re going to have to play them [Limerick] whenever you’re playing them,” he says. “We have a very short turnaround to the Waterford game.

“I believe there should be two weeks between every game, playing Limerick on a Sunday and then having to go to Walsh Park the following Saturday, you know there are five or six players going to pick up knocks and they mightn’t be available the weekend after. A fairer system would be a two-week break between every game.”

When Tipp and Limerick met in the league this year, Tipperary led by one at the interval but ultimately lost the game by the minimum.

“We were very disappointed the way we finished in the second half,” said Ryan. “Our energy levels dropped, it seemed to be after Séamus Kennedy’s injury. We came out in the second half and scored the first two scores, but our energy levels then seemed to drop.”

Tipperary will need all their reserves at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times