John Kiely and Declan Hannon reflect on a “competitive” & “enjoyable” return to the round robin Munster championship

The Munster Senior Hurling Championship Round Robin returned in 2022 following an enforced Covid hiatus and has been welcomed with open arms. To have any Munster Championship at all in the last two years was a bonus but the return to a four game provincial structure has more than doubled the workload for players and management alike.

Limerick won the 2021 Munster title with victories over Cork and Tipperary but will have had to undergo three further games this year if they are to defend the crown they have taken hold of since 2019. The added intensity that each game in Munster brings is well known but the toll it takes hasn’t been lost on

Limerick captain Declan Hannon:

“Definitely a different workload. I suppose the two games in six or seven days can be tough at times yet those are the rules and the format this year so you go with it and try to get a performance each time you go out.

“It doesn’t always happen that you perform to 100% but if you are there or there abouts you should get the results but it has been very enjoyable. The more games the better for players I think. It’s a big difference to the last couple of years. It took us four games to win the All-Ireland and this year it’s taken four games to get to the Munster Final alone.”

Declan Hannon pictured with the Mick Mackey Cup ahead of Sunday’s Munster Hurling Final.

The Round Robin suited Limerick down to the ground in 2018 with a third placed finish eventually seeing them into an All-Ireland quarter final where they beat Kilkenny. That led to an epic against Cork in the semi and then the famous win over Galway in the decider.

Limerick went all the way in Munster the following year although they suffered defeats to Cork and Tipperary along the way. However, he Treaty’s hopes of successive All-Ireland’s ended with a defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi final at Croke Park.

More games has meant more fans returning to games and it has been a welcome sight for all involved. Like Hannon, Limerick manager John Kiely loves the rough and tumble of the Round Robin but the quick turnaround in games brings its own issues.

“It’s been really competitive for us in Munster. Tipperary gave us a tremendous challenge, a really, really rough game for us. Obviously, the game in Ennis was a really, really challenging game.

“Nothing between the two sides and it could have gone either way. The first two games were really tough as well. Great test, great competition. Every day you go out you know you’re putting everything out there and hoping that it will be good enough.

“I suppose it’s just the speed in which the games come. Last year we had two weeks in between each game so you had time to do your analysis, you were able to balance the load over two weeks. Our analysis team, led by Seanie O’Donnell, had a busy time trying to turn over the games.

“Even having your team named on a Wednesday for the match on the Sunday. You’re almost naming it in the dark. You that there are some players that have been unable to train on a Tuesday but you’re hoping that they are able to train on Friday and be ok for the game on Sunday.

“But you pick your team on a Tuesday night so it’s gone in on a Wednesday so it’s an interesting challenge that way. We’re probably adaptable now and experienced enough to know how to handle it.

“So that’s why you end up with players sometimes that are not in the team that was selected because you just didn’t know when you are electing it that they would be fir or not.

“You had to make a call on that later in the week after they let you pick your team which is a
bit ironic.”

Limerick take on Clare in the Munster Senior Hurling Final on Sunday 5 June in Thurles at 4pm.

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