Hawkeye Sidekick

Limerick vs. Kilkenny: Key Battles

Evening throw-in is setup to deliver fireworks

The summer is hurtling along at a rate of knots. Wimbledon, One Day Cricket World Cup are in the books for another year. The Tour is about to conclude at the weekend which means that the All Ireland series is getting to the business end of the championship.

Limerick after their impressive Munster Senior Hurling final victory over Tipperary four weeks ago face a Kilkenny with momentum aplenty after an eye catching second half display against Cork. Will the four week layoff hinder Limerick? Hawkeye Sidekick previews the action.

Curse of the Munster Senior Hurling Champions

In recent times, victors of the Munster inter-provincial senior hurling crown have struggled in the All Ireland semi-final fixture to get over the line. Limerick must be wary of the lay off effects today as they look for a second consecutive All Ireland hurling appearance.

The parallel for Limerick is when they entered the Munster SHC this season. After an excellent NHL campaign, John Kiely’s charges were caught cold at home to Cork; a performance which lacked composure all over the field. Limerick must start the game today on point; otherwise it could be a long evening at HQ.

Limerick run game

The intriguing pregame note is how Kilkenny look to stifle the Limerick run game. Limerick’s middle third when in full flow are incredibly hard to stop and was seen to full effect when the two sides met at Nowlan Park in the NHL. The running game from Limerick creating goal scoring opportunities which Kilkenny defensively had precious little answers on the day.

Their All Ireland quarter final fixture last season saw Limerick victorious and in the process creating several wonderful goal chances which only for Eoin Murphy would have seen Limerick win by a more handsome margin. The physicality and hard running lines of Limerick if on point will be extremely hard to stop.

Do Kilkenny deploy sweepers in the half back line to combat the run game of the likes of Lynch, Hegarty, Morrissey and the marauding Hayes at half-forward? Given the full back line vulnerabilities, this option looks likely at some points during the contest. I would expect John Donnelly to hover around the half back and midfield for a good chunk of this contest but by doing so could leave someone like Diarmuid Byrnes in acres of space to score from long range at will.

Kilkenny look to their experienced forwards

Kilkenny’s team selection is do or die from the first whistle. Zero room for error. A squad bench which has potential if unproven. The fact that Walter Walsh starts an indication that Kilkenny are looking to establish early momentum and a primary ball winner in the air in the opening period.

Kilkenny will look to go for the throat early as they typically do. TJ Reid has been wonderful this season. 5-52 so far this season. His contribution on the scoreboard a major factor for Kilkenny negotiating the Leinster SHC this season. His free taking unerring and his ability to score from play and provide stealth assists to the fore in recent fixtures.

Richie Hogan provided a timely cameo of his class last time out. A superb goal and a couple of instinctive points showing that Hogan is hitting form at the right time of the championship year. Given Limerick’s fitness and conditioning, can he play the entire contest?

Limerick man marking decisions

A couple of key decisions for John Kiely, Paul Kinnerk and management to get right this evening. Who will pick up TJ Reid? I suspect that it will be a collective responsibility player call, some zonal marking mixed with William O’Donoghue looking to track Reid at various times to throw different looks.

The Fennelly man marking job inside will be Mike Casey with Sean Finn providing support if required inside. Declan Hannon at half back will look to sit in the pocket and dictate play from just inside his half back line. Hannon cannot be moved around the field like what happened against Cork at the start of the championship.

Hannon dictates the run game for Limerick from deep. Hannon establishes tempo. Hannon is a primary game player from deep for Limerick. It will be interesting to see how Kilkenny look to negate Hannon’s influence as if unaffected, Limerick will be in prime position to win this fixture with a bit to spare.

Can Limerick convert goal chances?

The Kilkenny full back has been under the microscope this season. The full back position is an area where Huw Lawlor, Joey Holden have been exposed due to lack of defensive shape in front of them. Galway this season ran at Kilkenny from deep and created several goal scoring chances.

It is a day where Aaron Gillane could flourish if given the opportunity. His 2-36 tally has been excellent again and there have been spurned goal scoring opportunities as well. Gillane’s pace, power and ability to pick off full back’s with his pace and movement could be seen yet again today.

If Kilkenny decide to negate Gillane’s influence, Peter Casey and Graham Mulcahy also come into the reckoning. Casey’s performance last time out was sensational. His scoring prowess, work rate to the fore. Mulcahy has quietly gone about his business this season and I believe is primed for a huge performance today. His pace and eye for a score is never in doubt.

The Kilkenny full back line are in for an arduous task provided their colleagues can stifle Limerick’s run game and quick ball distribution inside. The threat from Limerick attacking line is relentless; their pace and power has caused endless issues for teams this year and I don’t see that changing today.

Verdict

The four week hiatus is the only concern I have for Limerick today. The bench impact is huge for Limerick in the final quarter of games, something that Kilkenny have yet to prove. If Limerick can get into tempo and scoring form early, they are well placed to win this fixture.

Kilkenny must start with gusto and go for the throat early. A couple of early goals to rattle Limerick confidence, build the lead heading into the final quarter where the Limerick bench impact will come to the fore.

The verdict rests in the defensive lineups. Given that Limerick have a more settled feel and look to the defensive units, they get my vote. Kilkenny’s full back line is a concern and Eoin Murphy will need to produce a top quality performance in the goals for Kilkenny. Limerick if on form will get goal chances and this time will convert.

An interesting throw in time. A fixture which needs to light up the championship. Kilkenny to provide a serious challenge but if this Limerick side are to be considered in the elite team ranks of recent times, they need to deliver a dominant, classy performance today. This group of players want more, want more silverware. Limerick by four points.