PREVIEW: Final spot up for grabs as Limerick face Cork in the Munster Championship

Limerick and Cork renew acquaintances this Saturday evening as they meet in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship semi-final in Semple Stadium.

The Munster rivals have shared a special rivalry over the years with their most recent encounters proving box office.

They have split their last five meetings having a pair of wins each and an epic draw in Pairc Ui Chaoimh to boot with Limerick boss John Kiely expecting something similar this weekend.

Munster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Round 3, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork 2/6/2018 Cork vs Limerick Limerick’s Kyle Hayes celebrates scoring a late point to equalise the game and Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

“It’s another chapter, it will have its own story to tell. It’s our challenge to bring our best to that story on Saturday and trust in the work we have done.

“Every minute matters. For us it’s about backing the work we have done and backing ourselves. Focusing on the work we have and being the best team we can be on Saturday night.

“We set out a programme of work from the outset and we have stuck to it. You’ll have noticed me saying during the league that we were looking for incremental improvements, week to week in the games. Results weren’t necessarily the be all and end all, it was that we were improving that was important. This week is no different to any other, we are just looking to be better this week than we were last week.”

In a world of the “new normal”, the clash will once again have a June date after the winter championship of 2020.

And Kiely is gearing up for another classic with conditions ideal for the cut and thrust of the Munster championship.

“We’ve had a good few weeks, the weather has really brought a championship feel to things. Pitches are hardening up so the speed so the tempo and the speed of everything have gone up. So really looking forward to it.”

While Limerick’s 2021 League campaign was far from straightforward, the Shannonsiders saved their best for the visit of the Rebels, winning 0-33 to 2-19 in the LIT Gaelic Grounds.

5 June 2021; Cian Lynch of Limerick in action against Daire Connery of Cork during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A Round 4 match between Limerick and Cork at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

That was their first victory of the year and saw Kiely’s side back to their imperious best as they put an understrength Cork side to the sword.

But that game has been parked with the squad fully focused on the championship task at hand as Kiely outlined.

“I haven’t reflected on the game apart from the immediate reflection we have after every game. We have analysis, we park it, move on and that’s how we deal with it. That was one competition, and this is another.

“I’m expecting a high octane, extremely mobile, sharp and crisp unit that Cork always are in the championship. I expect we will have to work extremely hard in order to put pressure on their game and have the ball to do with it what we want to do with it. For us, that is the challenge. To be able to use the ball well.

“I’m looking forward to seeing our lads engage in that process. We have worked hard, and we have to enjoy it and go after it.”

And in a welcome boost to the side, Kiely suggested that he will have an almost full hand to pick from with Mike Casey close to returning from his ACL injury.

“We have pretty much everyone available for selection from tonight onwards. Hopefully everyone will get through training so we will have a full hand to pick from.

“Mike Casey is making fantastic progress. I expect him to resume full training next week. We are extremely happy where he is at. It’s a really tough journey but Mike has incredible mental strength, and we knew he was always going to be ok.”

It remains to be seen who the Galbally native will send out to battle but it promises to be another intriguing chapter in their storied history.

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