Limerick v Cork: Throw-in times, TV details and team news

Champions can retain their title in what has the makings of a fascinating encounter

Limerick’s Kyle Hayes, Seán Finn and Richie English celebrates winning a free against Darragh Fitzgibbon of Cork during the Munster semi-final at Semple Stadium in July. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Limerick’s Kyle Hayes, Seán Finn and Richie English celebrates winning a free against Darragh Fitzgibbon of Cork during the Munster semi-final at Semple Stadium in July. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

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All-Ireland senior hurling final: Limerick v Cork, Croke Park, Sunday, 3.30 – Live on RTÉ 2 and Sky Sports Arena.

The power of tradition: for all that Limerick have been the outstanding team of the past three years and stand on the threshold of history with the chance to be the first team from the county to defend an All-Ireland, the presence of Cork complicates perceptions.

Were the positions reversed and Cork looking for a third title in four years, does anyone think that Limerick would be attracting sneaking regard for their chances of creating an upset?

This weekend’s All-Ireland hurling final is all the richer for the intrigue and with 40,000, the biggest crowd at a sporting event in Ireland since the eruption of Covid, due on Jones’ Road, hopes are high for an appropriate spectacle.

There is understandable excitement at the return of Cork to the top table. Wednesday night’s under-20 All-Ireland lit the fuse that they hope will see today’s minor as well as the Liam MacCarthy spend the next year on Leeside.

Part of the reason for Cork’s history of unexpected All-Irelands is the simple dynamic of form and favouritism. A bit of momentum, quality and youthful bravado can upset expectations if the favourites feel over-burdened. This has of course happened to Cork as well down the years.

Such considerations are rarely sufficient reasons of their own. Unless the raw material is there to seize the day, being underdogs won’t be enough. Generally, it’s not a good thing to be considered more likely to lose and not at the prices Cork are attracting.

There’s no argument that Kieran Kingston’s team have a promising future and have proved wrong those who doubted their appetite for combat, but they are at the start of the journey. Limerick are on the road for a fourth year since returning to the top of the game.

Limerick’s Barry Nash and Shane Kingston of Cork challenge for the ball during the Munster semi-final. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Limerick’s Barry Nash and Shane Kingston of Cork challenge for the ball during the Munster semi-final. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Compare and contrast the champions’ almost effortless threading of multi-pass movement up the pitch and the precision of how ball goes to hand either from stick- or hand-pass with the more harum-scarum stylings of Cork in the semi-final.

Beating Kilkenny, though, was a great rite of passage for them and the requirement to go through extra-time extended the opportunity to play the way they would have intended before that last-minute goal dragged them into another 20 minutes.

It also meant that Tim O’Mahony could re-assert himself after the error that led to the goal, Jack O’Connor could slam down the pedal and get the sort of goal that his pace and instinct suggest he should. Patrick Horgan was able to play out of his system that missed 65, as Cork found their rhythm.

Shane Kingston’s astonishing display off the bench has ensured his return but can he find the same space to thrive? Will the semi-final be a platform or a peak?

When the teams met in July, there was every opportunity for Cork to win but inaccuracies drained the self-belief and encouraged an almost moribund Limerick to hang on, and in fact pull away in the end.

There aren’t abundant lessons from that day, as both teams have kicked on impressively. Limerick had to replace Gearóid Hegarty, Aaron Gillane and Tom Morrissey, as they were making so little impact. Kyle Hayes, though, did give notice of his HOTY credentials.

The scene switched to Croke Park two weeks ago and the champions gave their most complete performance of the season with the whole attack clicking. Its nerve centre is Cian Lynch whose flicks and tricks are rarely just for ornament but always geared to creating something.

Limerick’s Dan Morrissey and Patrick Horgan of Cork in action during the Munster semi-final. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Limerick’s Dan Morrissey and Patrick Horgan of Cork in action during the Munster semi-final. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Speaking to Keith Duggan on these pages, Mary I Fitzgibbon Cup coach, Jamie Wall, spoke of how time appears to slow down around Lynch: look at how he sidles up to rucks, flicks out the ball, runs away to create space and opportunity, leading to points for himself or the pass inside, which created Darragh O’Donovan’s goal against Cork and a chance for Hegarty just before half-time against Waterford.

Everyone’s speculating what Cork might do. Man-marking doesn’t appear to work (and Ger Millerick’s injury removes the likeliest candidate); leaving him to the middle-third swarm sounds risky but there’s no doubt – shut him down and Limerick are imperilled; as yet though, that’s a platitude not a plan.

The problem for opponents is that there are so many forwards to cope with – Séamus Flanagan has been in extraordinary form, surpassing 2018, whereas the wing forwards have picked up and Gillane is back on song, although Seán O’Donoghue will test that as he has in the past few years, including in July. But Gillane is a different proposition now.

The same applies to Hegarty and Eoin Cadogan.

Limerick’s formidable form over the second half of the Munster final and the All-Ireland semi-final has been structured on a deep defence, which can transition ball quickly through intricate passing movements, culminating in quick diagonal ball to Flanagan and Gillane.

Can Cork maintain a sufficiently high tempo, incorporating what looks a more threatening bench? Horgan might well charge at a different rate for indiscipline than Stephen Bennett managed in the semi-final on a difficult day for free takers.

Overall though it’s not possible to envisage how Cork might impose their strengths on the game to the point where they have the initiative and at the same time hold off the Limerick machine but it will be fascinating to watch them go about it.

LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Finn, D Morrissey, B Nash; D Byrnes, D Hannon (capt), K Hayes; W O’Donoghue, D O’Donovan; G Hegarty, C Lynch, T Morrissey; P Casey, S Flanagan, A Gillane.

Subs: B Hennessy, C Boylan, A Costello, C Coughlan, R English, R Hanley, G Mulcahy, B Murphy, C O’Neill, D Reidy, P Ryan.

CORK: P Collins; N O’Leary, R Downey, S O’Donoghue; T O’Mahony, M Coleman, E Cadogan; D Fitzgibbon, L Meade; C Cahalane, S Harnedy, R O’Flynn,; J O’Connor, P Horgan (capt), S Kingston.

Subs: G Collins, S O’Leary-Hayes, C Spillane, D Cahalane, N Cashman, B Hennessy, A Cadogan, S Barrett, A Connolly, D Dalton, S Twomey.

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)

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