Limerick and Tipperary meet this Sunday in what is the most anticipated game of the 2019 Championship.
The current All-Ireland champions head to Thurles to take on the in-form team in the country at this moment in time.
In what promises to be a classic, we look at the main talking points ahead of the game.
Do Limerick want a Munster Final berth?
It’s crazy to suggest that Limerick will not want to play in the Munster final a fortnight from today, but it may just be the case.
Although they’re without a Munster title since 2013, Limerick are current All-Ireland champions. Since the introduction of the qualifiers, provincial winners have varied in their successes. In 2018, Galway and Cork were provincial champions with the Rebels beaten by Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final. After the Munster final, Cork’s next game would be that last four match. As for Limerick they had clashes against Carlow and Kilkenny in the meantime.
From 2014 to 2017 Kilkenny (twice), Tipperary and Galway all won their provincial title before going on to claim Liam MacCarthy honours. In 2013 Limerick beat Cork to win the Munster final before Clare beat Limerick and Cork in back-to-back games to win the All-Ireland title while the year previously, Kilkenny avenged their Leinster final loss to Galway to defeat the Tribesmen in the All-Ireland final.
While every team goes out to win every game at the start of the year, Limerick are now faced with the same route as last year should they lose. Limerick will not go out to lose on Sunday but if they do, there will be zero worry from John Kiely.
Can Limerick continue defensive lockdown
In their previous two games against Clare and Waterford, Limerick have conceded a total of 0-23. Limerick conceded just 0-9 from play over the course of the two games. To put it in perspective, Limerick’s half time scores of 1-10 and 0-15 would have won them both games.
The work of their defence since the Cork defeat has been incredible. Sean Finn was man of the match against Clare and can surely be considered as the best corner back in the country. Beside him Richie English and Mike Casey were also at the best holding their respective opponents to 0-1 over the course of the two games.
In front of them, Declan Hannon had possibly his finest game in a Limerick shirt against Clare, playing his role to perfection while Diarmaid Byrnes slotted back into the half-back line seamlessly. Paddy O’Loughlin has taken to life in the senior championship like a duck to water while Dan Morrissey is as good as any of the aforementioned trio.
Limerick will be coming up against a completely different animal in Tipperary who have some of the best forwards in the country. But if they can get their match ups right then Limerick can continue to frustrate their opponents’ offensive weapons.
Will both sides show their cards?
Barring an unprecedented swing, both of these teams will make it out of the Munster Championship. Tipperary are almost guaranteed their place in the Munster final with Cork needing to overturn a 25-point differential to usurp Tipperary to play Limerick in the final. As for Limerick a win is needed to reach the final while progression from Munster is all but assured with Clare needing a points differential swing of 50+ points to oust Limerick from the top three. As such, there is a very high possibility that these teams will meet once again this summer if not twice.
Limerick know a win over Tipperary on Sunday will see them into the Munster final against Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds. Limerick are without a Munster title since 2013 with that being the only provincial title since 1996. Outside of Declan Hannon, Nickie Quaid, Graeme Mulcahy, Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes, there isn’t a Limerick player in the squad with a Munster medal in their pocket. As such they will be keen to get to the final and change that.
As for Tipperary, they will be confident of playing in the final regardless of results on Sunday. Liam Sheedy after making little changes in the opening three rounds may want to shuffle his deck for this game, given fringe players the chance to impress and keeping the regulars on their toes.
Yet, Limerick and Tipperary for that matter, may not want to show their full deck this Sunday with changes in both teams to be expected. With the quality of the squads on show however, there is every reason that it should still be a barnstormer.