Limerick hurling manager John Kiely has urged his players to make home advantage count when they face Tipperary in the Munster final on Sunday.
The All Ireland champions welcome Liam Sheedy’s charges to LIT Gaelic Grounds for the venue’s first provincial final since 2013 when Limerick overcame Cork by nine points.
The decider will be the third game Kiely’s men have played in the Ennis Road stadium during the championship so far and having lost to Cork there in the opening game, the Galbally man is hoping to give the home crowd something to shout about.
“It’s up to us to make it an advantage is what I’d say to you. We’re training twice a week, three times a week, played matches here, it’s our home ground. We have to make it count. That’s the way I look at it.
“We didn’t make it count against Cork. We did subsequently in the Clare match. So, that’s one thing I’ve learned. Home advantage doesn’t mean anything unless you make it count.
“All these lads should know where those goalposts are without looking. The same as some of the Tipp lads knew where they were without looking. That’s up to us to make it count.”
Both teams find themselves in a unique situation having faced off against each other just two weeks ago. Limerick came out on the wrong side of that result with Tipperary prevailing by four points, ensuring their unbeaten run through the round-robin series.
There was a suggestion of shadow-boxing from Limerick as they took to the field in Semple Stadium without Hurler of the Year, Cian Lynch, as well as Gearoid Hegarty and Graeme Mulcahy while Declan Hannon was also injured.
Despite protests that Limerick knew they would be in a Munster final regardless of the result, Kiely insists that they go out to win every game.
“We went to win that match, the same as we’ll go out to win every single match we play. That wouldn’t be my mantra and that would certainly not be my mentality. The day I start thinking like that is the day I’ll be saying ‘good luck, lads’.
“The bottom line is as I said earlier, it’s really difficult playing three games in 14 days. People do not realise it and maybe those people haven’t been involved with teams who have had to go through that as well.
“It’s really, really difficult to keep bringing yourself to the pitch for three games like that of those intensities. Maybe even a couple of more rotations might have been actually been needed more so than this.”
Tipperary, meanwhile, fielded their strongest XV for the game in Thurles but suffered the consequences when they were forced into making two changes before half-time. Cathal Barrett limped off the field with a hamstring strain while Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher suffered a cruciate injury.
Kiely was sorry to see the “phenomenal hurler” stretchered off the pitch.
“Nobody likes to see any player get injured especially getting a cruciate injury. Patrick Bonner Maher has been a phenomenal servant for the Tipperary hurlers, he’s been a player that any hurling person would have admired for his work rate, his linebreaks, his vision with his handpassing, his ruthlessness in attack.
“He’s a phenomenal hurler, just one who you couldn’t but admire. Nobody takes any satisfaction seeing a player of his calibre not being available for a Munster final. It’s very unfortunate and we wish him well in his recovery.
“For me, for us, it’s all about ourselves, our own team and our own preparations. Our performance wasn’t good enough the last day and that’s where our focus has to be in terms of turning that around and making sure all the ingredients we need on Sunday are going to be there.”