The two form teams in Munster meet this Sunday as Limerick travel to Thurles to face Liam Sheedy’s Tipperary.
Tipperary have been imperious this year with three wins form three, impressing in each win.
Limerick have recovered from an opening day loss to Cork to put in back to back wins against Clare and Waterford with 18 & 20 points to spare in the games respectively.
Tipperary are almost assured their place in the Munster final while Limerick need a win to join them in the showpiece event.
As such, below is a look at the key matchup’s Limerick need to get right if they are to reach a first Munster final since 2014.
Who picks up Callanan and Forde?
In the Gaelic Grounds last summer in the opening round of the Munster championship, Limerick secured a well-deserved six-point victory over Tipperary. While Limerick were by far the better tea m on the day, the Premier started without the services of Seamus Callanan, Brendan Maher, Michael Breen and Patrick Maher who were all dropped by manager Michael Ryan.
On that day Jason Forde almost single-handedly willed his side to the win notching 1-9 of his sides total of 2-14. Forde’s performances over the past eighteen months for his side have been by far the best of his career as he continued that form into 2019 whilst also holding onto free-taking duties in spite of Callanan’s return.
Last summer he was picked up by Seamus Hickey, who was exploited at full-back such was the form of the former UL student. With the Silvermines man likely to roam about the field with Callanan reinstated on the edge of the square, it is likely that English or Finn will be tasked with picking him up. Whomever it may be, it is vital they don’t allow him space to strike with Forde one of the most accurate forwards in the country presently.
With Callanan at 14, Mike Casey is the obvious choice to pick him up. Casey has always stepped up to the plate when needed, especially in last years All-Ireland final when tasked with man-mountain Johnny Glynn. Yet, Callanan is a different animal combining size with pace and skill in abundance. His record of 30 goals in 50 Championship appearances is astonishing and Casey will have to get to grips with him quickly if Limerick are to pull through to a Munster final.
It is highly likely that the midfield partnerships will be Cian Lynch and William O’Donoghue against the Tipp pair of Noel McGrath and Michael Breen. The Na Piarsaigh man has been key for Limerick since he was picked for the Walsh Park trip and is the more defensive minded of the pair. As such he should be the man tasked with disrupting Noel McGrath who is the conductor in chief of the Tipperary attack. He is blessed with arguably the best wrists in the game and cannot be allowed space to dictate. O’Donoghue’s direct running in the opposite direction should pose him enough problems to worry about his defensive duties.
That leaves Lynch and Breen. The current Hurler of the Year may not be at the level of last year but has been extremely effective for Kiely’s side. He is still unrivalled in terms of winning ‘dirty ball’ with his vision of the highest order. He has come out best in his duals with Colm Galvin and Jamie Barron in recent weeks, but Breen will prove a different task altogether. His driving runs are so hard to stop once he gains momentum and has seen him pick off 0-7 thus far in the championship from midfield. If Lynch can get on top early on, it could be a huge catalyst in a Limerick performance.
Limerick’s half forwards vs Tipperary’s half-backs
A half-back line composing of three Tipperary Maher’s is as imposing as it gets. Ronan, Padraic and Brendan Maher have been a pillar of strength for Liam Sheedy this Summer with the latter pair integral in his last success as Tipperary manager in 2010. They are brilliant in the air and are often the launchpad for Tipperary attacks with each equally capable of picking up a couple of scores from play.
However, they will rarely face a half-forward unit of the ilk of Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes and Tom Morrissey. If this trio plays well then Limerick usually play well. While they were a little of the pace in the opening round against Cork, they were someway close to their best in the previous two games as Limerick cantered to wins over Clare and Waterford. Generally, the Tipperary half-back line are dominant aerially but each of Limerick’s three half-forwards are brilliant in the air and will severely disrupt Tipperary in this department.
Limerick’s puckout strategy is so key to their play and if they can trump Tipperary in the air and thus negate the Maher’s impact here, it may prove vital.