Limerick and Kilkenny face off for Liam MacCarthy honours | All-Ireland Final Preview

The pair last met in April, as Limerick cruised to victory in the final of the Allianz League, despite their side being rotated.

This weekend will see Limerick and Kilkenny lock horns in a repeat of last year’s epic All-Ireland final. The stage is delicately poised, with the Shannonsiders chasing a remarkable four in a row, while the Cats are looking to end a drought that has been going on since 2015.

Kilkenny are one of only two counties to have claimed a four in a row, doing so in 2009 and they will be keen to prevent Limerick form emulating that achievement.

Prior to John Kiely’s appointment in 2017, Limerick hadn’t won a Liam MacCarthy title in 44-years and had never retained the championship. Since then, they have won four, including each of the last three.

The pair last met in April, as Limerick cruised to victory in the final of the Allianz League, despite their side being rotated.

The League final meeting is likely to mean little this weekend, as both sides have come a long way since then, with both now at their peak.

9 April 2023; Diarmaid Byrnes of Limerick is tackled by Timmy Clifford of Kilkenny during the Allianz Hurling League Final match between Kilkenny and Limerick at Páirc Ui Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Limerick have yet to hit the heights of previous years, and are dealing with the injuries of Sean Finn and Declan Hannon.

The loss of their captain is a huge blow as he misses out on the decider. Limerick will once again go with what worked against Galway with William O’Donoghue filling in at centre-back. While Cian Lynch is an exceptional replacement in the middle of the field, losing O’Donoghue’s physicality could be important.

For Kilkenny, Adrian Mullen is coming back to full fitness, returning in the semi-final clash with Clare, and he will be hoping to exert himself with O’Donoghue at #6. Howler, he may well directly come up against Darragh O’Donovan who has been one of the leading lights in this year’s championship.

Injuries and rotation aside, each side have been able to rely on regular stars this year, with Aaron Gillane and Tom Morrissey among others, flying for Limerick, while the Cats have had TJ Reid and Eoin Cody in fantastic form.

Gillane in particular has been unstoppable of late, and the Kilkenny defence will be tough tasked stopping him. Gillane is the hurler of the year front runner and is priced at 1/2 to pick up the award and keep it in Patrickswell for the third year running.

8 July 2023; Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final match between Limerick and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

With the midfield battle likely to be a physical contest, and with each side boasting impressive attacks, perhaps the most intriguing battle comes between the two goalkeepers.

Nickie Quaid and Eoin Murphy are the two best keepers in the country, and the winner on Sunday will most likely claim this year’s All-Star, with both having incredible years respectively.

The two coaches will be eager to win for different reasons, with Kiely looking to win four in a row, a feat only achieved by Kilkenny and Cork before. On the other hand, the once all-conquering Cats are aiming to end a run without an All-Ireland that is coming up on a decade, last winning in 2015.

Overall, it will be a third All-Ireland final meeting of the century with the Cats claiming victory in 2007, in the midst of their four in a row, while Limerick gained some semblance of revenge last year. Under Kiely, they just shade the championship results, 3-2 but under Derek Lyng, Kilkenny will know the enormous reward for drawing level in that regard.

It’s a mouthwatering match up and one for any neutral to look forward to. For those connected with either county it’s equal excitement and nerves.

All-Ireland finals should be no different.

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