Rivalries renew as Limerick and Clare do battle in Munster Hurling Championship

The stakes will certainly be high again this Saturday following an eventful opening weekend in the Munster Championship.

The TUS Gaelic Grounds is the venue as Limerick and Clare renew acquaintances in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship on Saturday evening.

The second round meeting throws in at 7pm on the Ennis Road and is a repeat of last year’s final where John Kiely’s men needed extra-time to see off the Banner in Thurles.

That came just three weeks after the sides played out an entertaining draw in the round robin stage, following another stalemate earlier on in the league.

However, Clare’s season came crashing to a halt in the All-Ireland semi-final as they couldn’t set up another rematch with Limerick going on to claim a third successive Liam MacCarthy title.

And the stakes will certainly be high again this Saturday following an eventful opening weekend in the Munster Championship.

23 April 2023; Kyle Hayes of Limerick is tackled by Neil Montgomery of Waterford during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Waterford and Limerick at FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Limerick extended their unbeaten championship run to 16 games but were made to do it the hard way by Davy Fitzgerald’s Waterford in Thurles as they eventually claimed a 1-18 to 0-19 result.

In the second game of the afternoon, Clare were overawed by Tipperary’s goalscoring prowess, succumbing to a 5-22 to 2-23 defeat at Cusack Park.

Those results mean Limerick can put one foot in the knockout phase this Saturday ahead of their three week break to Tipperary. A second successive loss for the Banner will likely put them out of the running for a Munster final berth and leave them with only an outside chance for third place in the round robin.

But despite differing opening round results, each will be keen for an improvement in performance in the Gaelic Grounds. Limerick looked to be home and hosed after 25 minutes against the Deise, with Seamus Flanagan’s goal leaving them eight in front. But the Shannonsiders left Waterford back into the contest and the sending off of Gearoid Hegarty made the job all the more difficult as they just held out Fitzgerald’s men.

Clare were the cause of their own downfall with three soft goals coming in the opening quarter, each of their own doing. They battled back well to leave just four between them at the half but two more green flags from Tipp after the resumption put the contest to bed.

It leaves them with the unenviable task of having to travel to the Gaelic Grounds in need of a result. The venue wasn’t fruitful for the Banner in their only ever meeting at the venue in the round robin series. In 2019, Limerick secured a comprehensive 1-28 to 0-13 result to end any Clare hope of a Munster final.

Clare have a positive home record against John Kiely’s men with a win (2018) and a draw (2022) while they have split the Thurles encounters, the Banner winning in Kiely’s first game in charge in 2017 while Limerick got their revenge in 2020 with a 0-36 to 1-23 win.

9 June 2019; Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 4 match between Limerick and Clare at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Both managers have made changes to their teams for this Saturday’s encounter. For Limerick, John Kiely has named Cathal O’Neill at wing forward in place of Gearoid Hegarty with the 2020 Hurler of the Year amongst the substitutes. Declan Hannon has been named to start.

Brian Lohan has included Either Quilligan in goals as he replaces Eamonn Foudy after his debut against Tipperary. David Fitzgerald also returns following his suspension, taking the place of the injured Ryan Taylor as Tony Kelly reverts to centre-forward.

Limerick are heavy favourites to continue their winning run that stretches back to the first round of the league as they were just pipped by Cork in Pairs Ui Chaoimh. The Treaty are 1/5 to pick up the result this weekend and move into top place in the round robin outright.

Should they defeat the Banner, they will know a win against Tipperary in the next round on May 21 would secure their place in the All-Ireland series at the least.

23 April 2023; Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates a second half point during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Waterford and Limerick at FBD Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

But Kiely and co won’t be looking past the challenge of Clare who have got closer than anyone else during Limerick’s incredible run of three in a row of All-Ireland titles and four successive provincial titles.

Getting over the line has proven to a bridge too far since 2018 but the Banner will need to change that on Saturday to maintain their hopes of returning to the Munster final.

It’s a game that generally brings out the best in both, may the better team win.


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