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Monday 5 December 2016

Erratic Limerick put faith youngsters to derail Tipperary side blessed with heavy weaponry

Seamus Callanan is in form. Photo: Sportsfile
Seamus Callanan is in form. Photo: Sportsfile

Just a couple of years have passed since Limerick's hurlers pushed Kilkenny to the brink during a monsoon-lashed All-Ireland semi-final.

The Shannonsiders had conquered Munster the previous summer, 2013. They were getting closer, ever closer, to September's holy grail.

Or were they?

It has been a depressingly erratic 18 months for TJ Ryan. In last year's Munster semi-final, his team had battled back to within a point of Tipperary after 45 minutes, only for the wheels to come off - cue a 16-point rout.

Then they raced into an eight-point lead against Dublin in the qualifiers - and lost.

This year's league brought another rendition of that annual trauma - failure to escape Division 1B. Even a quarter-final victory in 'Fortress Parnell' was quickly forgotten as the team fell away badly in the second half of their league semi-final against Waterford.

This is the topsy-turvy backdrop to Limerick's latest return to Semple Stadium.

True, you can never discount their capacity for summer heroics - Tipperary know this only too well, having lost to them in 2013 and '14.

But Tipp are at home and, crucially, have the benefit of a first-round 'warm-up' - not that a dismal Cork forced them into too many dark corners last month.

There were no goals from Tipp's marquee forwards that day, but the points flowed freely from Seamus Callanan (0-8) and John O'Dwyer (0-7), each landing four from play, while the younger McGrath, John, was a font of creativity alongside.

Not even a Cork sweeper could stem the damage, and Limerick will have to be a lot more successful at shutting down Tipp's deadly inside line. To do that, though, they'll have to stop the Premier at source - starting with Pádraic Maher, whose influence from half-back against Cork was colossal.

Ryan's team selection for Limerick has been bold, handing SHC debuts to four of last year's All-Ireland U21 winning crew (Richie English and Diarmuid Byrnes in defence, Gearóid Hegarty and Barry Nash at wing-forward) while giving Dan Morrissey his first summer start at full-back, to the exclusion of stalwart warrior Richie McCarthy.

Maybe, against Tipp's deadly arsenal, he had no choice. But it still looks too big an ask.

ODDS: Tipp 1/4 Draw 12/1 Lim 7/2

VERDICT: Tipperary

MUNSTER SHC SEMI-FINAL

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