Tipperary are primed to strike this Sunday afternoon as they get ready to have a massive tilt at a stumbling Limerick juggernaut in what promises to be yet another Munster championship classic.
After Clare’s incredible performance in the Gaelic Grounds two weeks ago, the reigning All Ireland champions are firmly fixed in survival mode as they visit Tipp Thurles where they will be needing a victory to stay in this year’s championship.
t’s scarcely believable that the all conquering, four in a row chasing Limerick are in the position, and it would have taken a brave man to put money on them being in such a precarious position before a ball was pucked in this year’s championship.
Tipperary hold all the cards here as they welcome their new age rivals into FBD Semple Stadium.
The Clare bashing of Waterford last weekend was a most welcomed result as it gives Tipperary a much more manageable opponent in the final group game, one which has browbeating and low of confidence, and you would imagine based on the evidence so far that Tipp will likely handle the Deise in the final game, regardless of what happens this weekend.
But that won’t be in the forefront of Liam Cahill’s mind as he and his players could be presented with a huge opportunity to blow this championship asunder. Cork’s visit to Clare gets underway first on Sunday, with the game throwing in at 2pm and should the Rebels get a win out West, Tipperary will know that a win over Limerick will send the champions crashing out of this year’s championship due to their head to head with Clare.
The permutations are strict in terms of that outcome, but regardless of that tasty carrot possibly being dangled in front of the Tipp players prior to throw-in on Sunday, they and their management team will be eager to get the Limerick hoodoo off their collective consciousness, as the Treaty have undoubtedly held the trump card in the last four or five years.
Motivation will be plentiful on the sideline too, with Liam Cahill and Mikey Bevans carrying scars of their own from meetings with Limerick over the past number of years whilst in charge of Waterford; and you can say that only for John Kiely’s charges they might have won Munster and All-Ireland titles. Indeed, they are the only team that the Tipperary duo haven’t beaten at intercounty level over the last few years so it sets everything up brilliantly.
Plenty of focus has been given to the injury blight which has hit both teams in recent weeks with Jason Forde, Brian McGrath, and Eoghan Connolly picking up knocks so far, while Sean Finn and Cian Lynch are laid up to varying degrees for the Treaty, but there will be no excuses for either team come throw-in time.
Forde in particular is a massive loss to Tipp, but there was significant encouragement in the way that Mark Kehoe entered the fray from the bench in Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Round 2, bagging a healthy total of 1-4 and generally playing out of his skin.
The scene of Kehoe and Jake Morris leading the line in such brilliant fashion was well overdue and it is a big positive for Tipp, while the talismanic figure of Seamus Callanan coming on and contributing will be another good option for Cahill in the absence of the Silvermines ace.
The concession of goals so far has to be the biggest concern for Tipperary, with Cork cutting open the defence on too many occasions the last day out, and the expected replacement of Kyle Hayes to centre forward will throw a big test at the half back line who have been suspect out of possession in the two games to date.
Gearoid Hegarty will likely come into the starting lineup after being benched for the Clare game, and with panel depth like that we will still see an extremely strong Limerick team coming to town, regardless of big injuries.
Sean Finn is a big loss all the same and we may see Dan Morrissey shoved out to wing back with Mike Casey going to full back and perhaps Richie English coming into the team, while Colin Coughlan is a live option at wing back with Hayes shoving into the half forward line.
For Tipp, the likelihood is there will be few changes to the team other than Mark Kehoe, who will surely come into the lineup after his brilliance the last day out. Sean Ryan didn’t have the game he would have liked in Cork a fortnight ago and may make way for Callanan or perhaps Patrick Maher if there is to be another alteration.
Whatever the lineup for Tipp, Clare laid bare what needs to be done to shake the Limerick resolve. The Banner roared into every tackle and essentially won the battle in the middle third which gave them a platform to win the game, and it also cut down the supply to Seamus Flanagan and Aaron Gillane for large spells.
This is where Tipp will need to be on point, and if the goal concessions are tidied up there will be very little to pick between the sides come the final whistle.
Limerick haven’t been in this position in John Kiely’s tenure. They are going to be extremely primed for this game as they are fighting for their lives, and with Tipp looking to deliver what could be a decisive blow with the luxury of a home game against an already exited Waterford team, this could possibly trump any of the quality we have yet seen so far in Munster.