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Tuesday 22 October 2019

Treaty eager to avoid third defeat

Munster SHC final: Limerick v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds, Tomorrow (2.0, Live RTÉ2)

Patrick Maher
Patrick Maher

The relevant question here is whether enough has changed in the time these two last played each other to alter the result.

First, there's the obvious differences.

Tipperary won't have 'Bonner' Maher tomorrow or for the rest of the year.

In a summer when the sparkling skills of their assassins in attack have been magnified, Maher's ability to win the ball and break through tackles is just as essential, if far more understated, ingredient to their collective potency.

It would be interesting to hear Liam Sheedy's truthful answer if he had the choice of losing 'Bonner' or one of 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, Seamus Callanan, Jason Forde or John McGrath.

Absence

Cathal Barrett's absence may be more short term but they'll miss him here as his pace is a real asset for Tipperary's full-back line.

Limerick's team, meanwhile, will be enhanced by the return of Declan Hannon, Cian Lynch, Gearóid Hegarty and Graeme Mulcahy.

All four were rested when Tipperary beat Limerick in Thurles two weeks back and despite the depth of the Treaty squad, the team was seriously diluted in their absence.

This will be the greatest test of Tipperary's rediscovered appetite for slavish work.

Much of the analysis of their play in winning all four Munster group games was over the movement and sharpness of their forwards.

What is, perhaps, even more noticeable is the work rate of the same men.

It had been said of Tipperary's forwards that you can't expect an artist to paint your wall.

The artists in that area of the pitch are now doing the graft as well and, naturally enough, it's a potent combination.

Against a full-strength Limerick team in the Gaelic Grounds, the ability to come away from a ruck with the ball and quickly lay it off is as useful a skill as any of the flashy stickwork for which Tipp have been rightly lauded this summer.

Which is why the absence of 'Bonner' may be more acutely felt today than in any of the future rounds they might go on to play.

Tipp's half-back line are likely to resist the temptation to follow their men deep and leave a Barrett-less inside division alone with their opponents with acres of space in which to manoeuvre.

A loss here would be Limerick's third of the championship although they would still be short odds to make this year's All-Ireland final.

It's a record John Kiely will be as eager to avoid just as a Munster title is something he'll cherish as the last box to tick off his list of achievements with Limerick.

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