Limerick can count on the assurance that has eluded Galway at key moments
John Kiely’s team has weathered injury setbacks and look favourites to make final
Limerick’s William O’Donoghue celebrates the Munster SHC final victory over Tipperary at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
All-Ireland SHC semi-final: Limerick v Galway, Croke Park, Sunday, 4.0 – Live RTÉ2, Sky Sports Mix
The pairing many of us expected to see in the final sets up a round earlier. Limerick’s widespread favouritism has been endorsed by their progress to date, three matches that yielded comfortable wins.
That verdict on the Munster final might seem dismissive of Waterford, only four points adrift at the end, but they never quite looked like they were going to steer the ship home and it was to their credit that they battled on without that encouragement.
Waterford’s form since has revised upwards Limerick’s standing and the latter are in good fettle for a third successive All-Ireland semi-final.
John Kiely’s team has weathered the injury setbacks in the full-back line and now Richie English is near full recovery. Elsewhere the Munster champions showcase familiar assets, their strength and ability in the air and the relentlessness of their transition play through the middle.
They have also racked up the highest average score of all four semi-finalists.
These assets don’t bring any guarantees against Galway, who are capable of countering Limerick’s strengths but whose intermittent delivery in matches has seen them fatally compromised in the Leinster final and relying on Tipp’s red card – merited though it was – in the quarter-finals.
They may have crossed the Rubicon with that victory, though, as it got them through a competitive match and enabled them to rediscover a goalscoring touch, bagging three goals – something they’d managed just once in the previous 24 championship matches.
There is no doubt that Galway are capable of winning this in terms of their playing ability and strength but the tendency to turn over possession and to commit unforced errors must be driving manager Shane O’Neill mad.
That erratic tendency may prove fatal this weekend. Limerick initially looked shaken by the persistence of Waterford’s challenge in the Munster final but their ability to come through should bring benefits if this turns into a neck-and-neck contest.
It may not but either way, the favourites have to be, well, favoured.
LIMERICK: 1 Nickie Quaid; 2 Seán Finn, 3 Dan Morrissey, 4 Barry Nash; 5 Diarmaid Byrnes, 6 Declan Hannon, 7 Kyle Hayes; 8 Darragh O’Donovan, 9 William O’Donoghue; 10 Gearóid Hegarty, 11 Cian Lynch, 12 Tom Morrissey; 13 Aaron Gillane, 14 Séamus Flanagan, 15 Graeme Mulcahy.
Subs: 16 Barry Hennessy, 17 Conor Boylan, 18 Adrian Breen, 19 Peter Casey, 20 Ronan Connolly, 21 Aaron Costello, 22 Richie English, 23 Robbie Hanley, 24 Paddy O’Loughlin, 25 David Reidy, 26 Pat Ryan.
GALWAY: 1 Éanna Murphy; 2 Aidan Harte, 3 Daithí Burke, 4 Shane Cooney; 5 Fintan Burke, 6 Gearóid McInerney, 7 Joseph Cooney; 8 Pádraic Mannion, 9 Johnny Coen; 10 Joe Canning, 11 Cathal Mannion, 12 David Burke; 13 Brian Concannon, 14 Conor Cooney, 15 Conor Whelan.
Subs: 16 James Skehill, 17 Darren Morrissey, 18 Jack Fitzpatrick, 19 Seán Loftus, 20 Adrian Tuohy, 21 Evan Niland, 22 Jason Flynn, 23 Seán Linnane, 24 Niall Burke, 25 Jarlath Mannion, 26 Tadhg Haran.