Who replaces Sean Finn for Limerick’s Munster C’Ship encounter with Tipp?

There will be little time for Limerick to dwell on the injury with a do or die championship game upcoming against Tipp in Thurles.

Limerick will be without All-Star defender Sean Finn in the championship for the first time since 2016 this Sunday with the influential Bruff man picking up an ACL injury against Clare.

Finn was forced off in the closing stages of the first half, with the season ending injury confirmed later that week. Since breaking onto the scene as part of the back to back winning minors, Finn has transformed himself into the best corner back in the game, winning four All-Stars to go with as many All-Ireland’s and Munster Championships.

But there will be little time for Limerick to dwell on the injury with a do or die championship game upcoming against Tipp in Thurles.

John Kiely has a number of options in terms of replacing Finn but the decision will be vital if Limerick are to limit a strong attacking Tipp unit under Liam Cahill.

Ahead of the contest we look at some of the options at Kiely’s disposal

Mike Casey

The Na Piarsaigh man is in pole position to replace Sean Finn having come on for the injured All-Star in the defeat to Clare. And despite not starting either game thus far, Casey has had a big part to play having also come on for Declan Hannon early on in the win over Waterford. As the first sub on both occasions, the full back will see himself as the obvious choice to take over from Finn.

Furthermore, Casey was an ever present at the heart of the Limerick defence in the All-Ireland triumph last July, starting each of their seven championship outings following his recovery from successive knee injuries that saw him miss out on the 2020 and ’21 finals.

The only issue with Casey coming in for the Bruff man would be their style of play with he latter more suited to the role of a full back. While Finn is an out and out man marker, Casey’s game is slightly different, although he didn’t look out of place in the second half against Clare despite the turning tide. However, having competed with Dan Morrissey for the #3 jersey, Kiely may be reluctant to play both in the same line.

18 July 2021; Limerick manager John Kiely celebrates with Mike Casey after the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Limerick and Tipperary at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Yet, Casey’s breakout season came at corner back under Kiely and he may just be restored to the #2 shirt this Sunday.

Richie English

If you’re looking for a like for like replacement for Sean Finn, Richie English best fits the bill. Another who has suffered the dreaded ACL tear, English has been unable to reclaim the jersey he lost to the injury in early 2020. Barry Nash came into the side in his place and hasn’t looked back, winning successive All-Stars and earning a HOTY nomination. But it cannot be forgotten, the impact of English in 2018, when he was also named on the All-Star team in the opposite corner to Finn.

He started both Munster championship games in his return in 2021 but was replaced at full back by Dan Morrissey for the All-Ireland series and hasn’t been named in the c’ship starting XV since. His league form in the meantime has been sensational and he has rarely put a foot wrong in the green jersey.

Should he get the call, his early season form this year would make him suitably poised for a first start in two years.

26 February 2023; Richie English of Limerick during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Galway and Limerick at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Could we see a reshuffle akin to 2020?

When both Mike Casey and Richie English both fell foul of knee injuries in 2020 prior to the start of the rescheduled championship, few would have envisaged the move of Barry Nash to corner back. Dan Morrissey had previous in the full back line but even still, the decision to play him at #3 came as a surprise. There were a few teething problems in the win over Clare that October, but since, neither has looked back. Morrissey’s shift to full back also saw Kyle Hayes move to wing back while Cian Lynch was pushed to centre forward.

Since, Lynch, Hayes and Nash have all won a pair of All-Stars in their new positions while Morrissey has one at #3 (should be two following an incredible 2021 season).

Those positional switches helped transform Limerick into the three-in-a-row juggernaut that they have become and while it would be unreasonable to suggest completely altering the set up following one loss to Clare, Finn’s injury could force Limerick into a potential reshuffle.

Should Cian Lynch be deemed unfit to play, Kyle Hayes is the obvious choice to move to #11 with Morrissey out to the wing and Casey to full back like it was in 2022 with English coming in for Finn. But even if Lynch makes it, there’s still room for Hayes to head up the field with someone like Ronan Connolly or Colin Coughlan an option to come into the defence.

Aaron Costtloe or Fergal O’Connor for C’Ship debut?

Similarly, John Kiely could spring someone for their first ever championship start with Fergal O’Connor and Aaron Costello next in line for the corner back positions. Costello is a multiple All-Ireland winner, regularly named in match day panels for the championship and has won a number of Limerick SHC’s also. Yet he hasn’t made his championship debut as of yet after joining the panel in 2019.

O’Connor was the full back for the Limerick U20s that reached the All-Ireland final last year and was drafted into the senior squad after they came up just short against Kilkenny, winning a maiden Celtic Cross medal. He made his senior debut in the Munster Hurling League and featured throughout the NHL to win a first league title.

However, neither has featured since the round four win over Westmeath, where O’Connor started, while Costellos’s most recent start was the round one defeat to Cork back in February. Neither was amongst the substitutes bench in either championship game so far and while one is likely to come into the 26-man panel, it is doubtful either will be handed a first start.

What John Kiely and co ultimately opt with will be an interesting one ahead of Sunday’s vital clash.

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