During his 14-year career, Tipperary great Eoin Kelly won five Munster Hurling Championship medals, the first coming in 2001 and the last in 2012.
His former county find themselves back in the provincial decider following a two-year absence and with Liam Sheedy back at the helm, Tipperary will be desperate to reclaim the Munster Cup.
The task ahead of them on June 30 is far from straight-forward. They must travel to Limerick to face the All Ireland champions in front of an expected sell-out crowd while missing two key players in Cathal Barrett and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher.
The side’s faced off in a dress rehearsal on Sunday but with both teams relatively certain of their place in the top two, Kelly believes we witnessed some shadow-boxing from Limerick.
“Limerick left off key players and that suggests they’re looking at a bigger picture here. As it turns out, they’ve ended up in the Munster Final with Tipp. But even the Limerick supporters we’re saying, ‘what’s going on here’ when they saw the team that started. There was definitely some shadow boxing going on.
“The Munster Final and is set up nicely for Limerick now with them playing at home at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. It’s going to take a massive performance from Tipperary to overturn them there. Having played against Limerick there in huge games, I know it’s a very, very hard place to come out of it with victory. It’s possible, of course, but it’s a huge ask.
“In the Munster Championship so far, these were the two teams who have really shown their physicality and intensity and it’s right that they’ve ended up in the final.”
Limerick haven’t won a Munster title since 2013 and only seven of their current squad were involved against Cork that day in the Gaelic Grounds. While the motivation is obvious from their point of view, Kelly maintains that Tipperary will be desperate to get their hands on silverware.
Kelly, a GAA Ambassador for Paddy Power, knows from experience how important a Munster medal is and does not believe that it’s value has decreased in recent times, despite the new setup.
“Firstly, for Limerick, when was the last time that Limerick had the National League trophy, the Munster cup and Liam McCarthy sitting in the country boards’ cabinet?
“John Kiely is going to attack this and I’ve always said. A Munster medal is a prestigious medal and I know what. Tipperary are going to be gung-ho for a Munster Final too. You never know when you’re going to get back to a final with a chance of silverware.
“I’d still hold the Munster Championship up there in the same regard as a Celtic Cross. I know at the end of the season the All-Ireland is the ultimate prize, but winning a Munster title is still very special. Liam Sheedy has managed Tipperary to two Munster Championships.
“When he was playing, he would have been involved with teams that were unsuccessful in winning a Munster. So, it’s something that as players you would die for, and that’s all the motivation you need.”