Tipperary and Limerick go toe-to-toe in the Munster Championship this weekend and, as always, Brian Barry is here to give us the top three talking points.
1. Can Lar Corbett still head the Tipp attack?
The last two times Tipperary have captured the Liam McCarthy Cup, Lar Corbett has been instrumental. The 2010 Hurler of the Year returns to the fold to add spice to the Premier County’s attack. Tipp will rue their league final loss to Kilkenny, but know that they were not at their strongest without their Thurles talisman. Corbett can score goals. Simple as. Give him space, or a dropping ball one on one with the fullback, and he will cause havoc.
However, does he still possess the firepower he once had? Thirteen years after his first All-Ireland, he is still the danger-man, but does he still possess the pace to help Tipp launch a serious assault at September glory?
2. How will Limerick react to Donal O’Grady’s departure?
Dónal O’Grady walked away from the set-up after a spat with the county board; far from ideal preparation for the championship. TJ Ryan has fully taken the reigns to prime Limerick for their Munster defence. This sparked much debate in the hurling world.
Many were critical of O’Grady, for bringing the Treaty back to a more defensive game-plan, undoing the progress of John Allen. Others defend O’Grady to the hilt, and if the rumours that the county board lied in saying he apologised for the league performances are to be believed, then O’Grady was right to walk. Nonetheless, it will not change a thing come Sunday. How the Limerick players react will define their season.
3. Can Tipperary push on from a promising league campaign?
Last year, Tipp had their eyes on the big prize entering June. Having bulldozed their way to the league final by punishing Dublin in the semi-final, they lost out to Kilkenny in an entertaining decider.
Entering the Championship, Limerick seemed a relatively easy stepping stone before bigger challenges ahead. One shock loss and an ill-fated trip to Nowlan Park later, the Premier’s summer was over by early July. They should not make the same mistake twice. Going into the final round of the league, things were looking bad, as they needed a win against the Dubs to avoid a relegation play-off. Séamus Callinan and Brendan Maher particularly impressed, as Eamonn O’Shea rallied his troops, reaching the decider only to be pipped by the Cats again. But can they take another step up as the summer intensifies?
Verdict: Tipperary will be eager to avenge their shock defeat at this stage last year. Limerick enter the tie with nothing to lose, with not many expecting them to repeat the feat. It will be close, but Tipp might just edge it. Tipperary by three.