Limerick hurlers return to competitive action for first time since All-Ireland
All-Ireland champions host Tipperary in Munster League clash
Séamus Hickey lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup in Croke Park last August. The Limerick stalwart has since announced his retirement from the inter-county scene. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
It’s a kind of homecoming for Limerick’s senior hurlers on Friday night at the Gaelic Grounds as they play their first competitive match since claiming the All-Ireland crown.
They’ve done the clubhouse, community centre and school circuit since that glorious day in August when they bridged a 45-year gap, Liam McCarthy in tow as the guest of honour, but this will be the first chance to flex their hurling muscles in public as All-Ireland champions.
Tipperary provide the opposition and although it remains to be seen what sort of line-ups the teams’ respective managers opt for in December, Tipp are expected to contain a sprinkling of the U-21s who claimed an All-Ireland of their own in somewhat surprising circumstances back in August.
It may “only” be the Co-Op Superstores Munster Hurling League, but both teams will have something to prove to their mentors. Limerick will be keen to show that they have celebrated wisely, and not too well, while Tipp’s mix of established and new players will want to demonstrate their worth to returning manager Liam Sheedy.
The 2016 All-Ireland winners will also see the forthcoming season as something of a retrieval mission, having crashed out of the 2018 campaign at the Munster round-robin stage with two draws and two defeats.
By next weekend, Limerick will have played their two group matches in this 2019 competition: Kerry hosting them in Tralee on Thursday night, and manager John Kiely – a school principal in Tipperary town – is likely to use the early-season fixtures to try out some fringe panellists in preparation for next year’s Allianz Hurling League.
They are being facilitated this month by the Munster Council to smooth the path for their post-All-Ireland trip to Mexico after Christmas.
The other group in the Munster league features Cork, Clare and Waterford with action due to get going in that on December 29th when Clare entertain Cork in Ennis.