“Winning your provincial championship is massive for the break” | Maurice O’Brien on Limerick & Kilkenny’s advantage

Having overcame Clare in a Munster final thriller, the Shannonsiders have earned a spot in the All-Ireland semi-final, as well as a much needed four week rest.

Cian Lynch has been arguably Limerick’s best player over the last five years, but in his continued absence this year, John Kiely has had to chop and change his side as he sees fit. Having overcame Clare in a Munster final thriller, the Shannonsiders have earned a spot in the All-Ireland semi-final, as well as a much needed four week rest.

With that rest comes a chance for Limerick to get Lynch up to speed, bringing in a player of the quality of Lynch at this stage would be such a bonus for Kiely’s men.

Limerick are also without Sean Finn and will have to make do without Declan Hannon for the All-Ireland semi-final with their captain ruled out through injury.

However, time is on their side regarding the former two-time Hurler of the Year with four weeks for the rest to take following an incredibly tough provincial championship.

4 February 2023; Cian Lynch of Limerick during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Cork and Limerick at Páirc Ui Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Leinster winners Kilkenny await in the other semi-final, and they too could benefit similarly from the break, as they have Adrian Mullen waiting in the wings to return from injury.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Treaty Talk Podcast, Maurice O’Brien discussed the importance of that break to the provincial champions.

“The break was six weeks, that was a bit long but four weeks is on the money. They have a month to get things right.

“They key for Limerick is, can you get Cian Lynch to a position in the next four weeks where he’s a viable option? What an addition Cian would be to it now, facing into an All-Ireland semi-final if you can put him back into the mix as well.

“With Kilkenny, it’s huge for them, they have a similar situation where they have Adrian Mullen on target to be back for All-Ireland semi-final stage, and what an addition he’d be to them. Two big players, one for each, to come back into it.”

“Winning a Munster or Leinster is massive now for the break.”

Maurice O’Brien

Even though Limerick have had to deal with the absence of Lynch, a number of players have stepped up for the All-Ireland champions throughout the year. Tom Morrissey has arguably been their most consistent performer, scoring 0-15 throughout the championship so far, while Diarmaid Byrnes has delivered a number of mammoth displays from half-back, continuing in the vein that saw him named Hurler of the Year.

Seamus Flanagan has been very reliant as a goal threat for Kiely’s men this year, but on Munster final day, it was Aaron Gillane who stepped up to drag the Treaty across the line.

The Patrickswell man shot 1-11 on a day where he tore the Clare full-backline to shreds. It has been a very good year for Gillane, who recently moved into the top 15 all-time championship scorers, and everything went his way in the provincial decider.

“It was a real standout performance from him, I thought he was excellent. On Munster final day, Gillane stood up and shone bright. He got a break where his old arch nemesis [Conor Cleary] wasn’t on him, it was a day he had to come out. I’d say Aaron was a happy man not to see him trotting out to him on Sunday. But what a performance from him.

“I thought he was sensational.”

Maurice O’Brien
11 June 2023; Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the Munster GAA Hurling Championship Final match between Clare and Limerick at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Even with some of the frontline players failing to find their incredible peaks, Limerick have found performances in a number of fringe players, notably David Reidy and Graeme Mulcahy who were chosen to start the Munster final as they took their provincial medal tally to six.

A number of last years U20 All-Ireland runners up have continued their transition to the senior set up which has been a major boost to Kiely and co. Cathal O’Neill has been one of their best performers throughout the championship, and he has shown numerous times what he is capable of, be it as a starter or a substitute. Adam English impressed in his cameo in the Munster final, and he becomes yet another option the Shannonsiders can call on from the bench.

“The contribution of Cathal O’Neill during this year’s Munster championship has been excellent, I think it’s slipped under the radar a bit. We saw what Adam English brings to the table, I have no problem with Colin Coughlan in any position in the defence, I think he has vindicated my opinion in the last few games.”

Matt O’Callaghan
25 March 2023; Cathal O’Neill of Limerick in action against Conor Stakelum of Tipperary as Johnny Ryan of Tipperary looks on during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi-Final match between Limerick and Tipperary at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by John Sheridan/Sportsfile

It has been an exhausting Munster championship for Limerick, with five tough games being played across a two month period. Kiely has had to use majority of his squad, but they have stepped up, especially when needed most.

The Limerick boss now finds himself in a position where he knows who he can trust, while also having the chance to get Lynch fit and firing ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final. Hannon’s injury is a massive blow but the Treaty have plenty of alternative options in that regard.

Depth has been key to Limerick’s championship so far and it may be the key that drives them over the line yet again this year.

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