Limerick SHC: Round 5 Review

Na Piarsaigh and Doon advance to the semi-final

The round robin group stage phase of the Limerick SHC is now in the books and we now know who has their ticket to the quarter and semi-finals. An interesting weekend of results. 

Group 1: Na Piarsaigh / Doon into last four

Before this final round of fixtures, Na Piarsaigh were destined to advance to the semi-final round (only for a bizarre set of results). Their performance against Patrickswell today was emphatic at the Gaelic Grounds and it will take an exceptional team to dethrone the Caherdavin club this year. 

Peter Casey’s early goal after a minute set the tone as Shane Dowling, Casey and the Dempsey brothers were to the fore. Patrickswell tried hard but Na Piarsaigh’s precision passing and support running lines were too much at times for an over worked Patrickswell defense.

Aaron Gillane’s late goal put respectability to the scoreboard but ‘Well will know that they need to improve significantly in the quarter final to be a serious threat for the remainder of the championship. The middle third at times was routed which was a surprise considering the personnel on show. 

Na Piarsaigh were in full control and the 1-21 to 1-11 scoreline was the least that they deserved. 

While Adare and Ballybrown drew 3-17 each at Claughaun to consign Ballybrown to Group 2 next season, the stage was set for Kilmallock and Doon to face off with the winner advancing to the semi-final berth. The pregame thoughts were that Kilmallock would edge the contest but Doon have the ability of tearing up the form book and so it proved here. 

Barry Murphy was the fulcrum for Doon today as his opening half 0-6 point haul gave Doon the platform to keep in touch with the South Limerick outfit. In the second half, Doon strode clear with Dean Coleman particularly impressive. Kilmallock were not cohesive in their distribution and their work rate was a clear second to Doon where Richie English was excellent. Doon won 0-17 to 0-10. 

After such an encouraging performance against Na Piarsaigh a couple of weeks ago, Kilmallock have questions to answer. A quarter final fixture to try and restore confidence but this performance was a pale shadow to a a couple of weeks ago. Advantage Na Piarsaigh in this championship race. 

Group 2: Murroe Boher / South Liberties advance

I did not think that Murroe Boher or South Liberties would be caught today but Cappamore nearly ripped the script apart with a late salvo against South Liberties who were glad to hear the final whistle at the death. It looked pretty straightforward for South Liberties in the opening period as Barry Nash and Brian Ryan were keeping the scoreboard operator in regular action. 

However, Cappamore knowing that a loss would consign them to intermediate hurling next season launched a brave last quarter push; reducing the arrears to a point, causing frayed nerves in the Liberties camp. Cappamore are relegated and they will rue their third quarter performance against Knockainey which lost them the game and ultimately their spot in the senior next season. 1-12 to 1-11. 

South Liberties advance to the quarter-finals and their performance today was particularly nervy in the second half; they need to improve considerably for a quarter-final tussle with Patrickswell. A free hit for them in this encounter and hopefully they can bring the work rate and intensity to unsettle the ‘Well to make this fixture competitive. 

Murroe Boher were comfortable in their five point win to Knockainey. The game was put to bed in the opening quarter as the East Limerick side were twelve points up after twelve minutes. Seanie Tobin and Mike Ryan were excellent for Murroe Boher who won (2-16 to 2-11).

The East Limerick will look forward to a free hit against Kilmallock in the quarter final; no pressure on them and their side has an excellent work ethic, well organized and potent attacking inside options. Could they cause an upset?

Ahane and Monaleen in Cappamore on Sunday afternoon was a game which lacked intensity for long periods. The near neighbors were tit for tat throughout. Ahane’s overly relied on Tom Morrissey who scored eight out of Ahane’s ten points in the opening period.

Monaleen won the game late on with a fine score from David Moloney and they just about edged the encounter by a point (1-15 to 0-17); were more solid in key areas with Lyons and LaTouche-Cosgrave providing key cameos. Ahane have struggled in attack this season with their points average (only Cappamore scored less).

For Monaleen and Ahane, it is the end of the road for this year’s championship. Monaleen will rue the draw against Cappamore in the opening round. Ahane were competitive in all games but that lack of attacking cutting edge was missing at key parts. An off-season to see where improvements can be made. 

Semi-Final: 

Na Piarsaigh, Doon 

Quarter Finals:

Patrickswell vs. South Liberties 

Kilmallock vs. Murroe Boher 

Relegation:

Cappamore 

Limerick SHC: After Round Four, where do we stand?

An exciting weekend of action in the Limerick SHC and we know four teams who have officially secured their place in the knock out stage of the championship. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action. 

Group 1: Graeme Mulcahy masterclass

Hawkeye Sidekick asked in the preview piece last week who will be main contender to challenge Na Piarsaigh? The answer was emphatic this weekend, it is going to come from Kilmallock who swept aside the challenge of Patrickswell at the Gaelic Grounds. 

A sensational cameo from Graeme Mulcahy the highlight for the South Limerick side as his nine points from play set the platform to defeat a Patrickswell side 1-22 to 1-12. Patrickswell had no answer to the Limerick corner forward movement. The side played direct and reaped the rewards. Patrickswell are still in the hunt but the injury that forced Cian Lynch an early exit from proceedings yesterday could be a damaging blow for their ambitions of contending for a county final berth. 

Adare tried hard but unfortunately felt the wrath of Na Piarsaigh with a ten point defeat which consigns the side to an early championship exit. Na Piarsaigh were rarely troubled in this contest and the goal scored by Adrian Breen was a highlight reel moment. 2-19 scored and the usual suspects came to the party. Na Piarsaigh’s have received their jolt from Kilmallock and the rest of the sides left in the championship beware. 

In the other game in the group, Doon managed to hold off a dogged Ballybrown challenge. 1-12 to 0-9 was a nervy affair at times; several poor wides from both sides during the hour. Doon’s county stars stood out in the second half and their composure was key to victory at the death.

Doon move into third place in the standings and confirms that Na Piarsaigh, Kilmallock, Doon and Patrickswell advance to the knock out phase. The last round of games will confirm the top two from the group who will advance to the semi-final but Na Piarsaigh (look home and hosed) and Kilmallock if they do not suffer a heavy loss in their last game should be the top two. 

Group 2: Advantage Murroe / Boher and South Liberties 

This group is evenly poised but it is very much advantage to Murroe / Boher and South Liberties after key wins over closest rivals Monaleen and Ahane respectively. 

Murroe / Boher again came up at the right side of the result against Monaleen who had only two scorers during the sixty minutes. Ross Kennedy struck the vital in the opening period as the East Limerick side went in at the break 1-9 to 0-6 up. 

Monaleen’s performance improved on the restart and 
Mark O’Dwyer with 0-12 (10 frees) and Luke Murphy with five points from play setup a titanic finish but experience from Seanie Tobin down the stretch saw Murroe / Boher home. 

South Liberties bounced back from a disappointing loss to Monaleen in the previous round to beat Ahane 1-15 to 0-15 at Cappamore. South Liberties were in charge in the opening period; dominant middle third display resulting in a 0-10 to 0-5 with Brian Ryan and Barry Nash prominent. 

Ahane stormed back into the contest in third quarter; inspired by the Morrissey brothers. Tom Morrissey at the end was sensational, scoring three consecutive points to give Ahane the lead heading into injury time but South Liberties’ response was emphatic. 1-1 in injury time sufficient to secure the victory.

Knockainey secured their first win of the SHC with a nail biting one point win over Cappamore who were 3-4 to 0-7 ahead at half time. Padraic Barron the hero for the South Limerick side scoring 1-13; his composure down the stretch enough to hold off a late charge from Cappamore who will rue an indifferent second half start. 

For Ahane and Monaleen, it is winner take all on Thursday night with the hope that either Murroe/Boher or South Liberties slip up in their games against bottom two Knockainey and Cappamore respectively. I cannot see either top two teams in the group slipping up. Ahane and Monaleen making their exits from the championship. 

Even at this early stage of the championship, you cannot look past Na Piarsaigh or Kilmallock right now. They are the two form teams entering into the knockout stages; the only concern would be the layoff if they get to the semi-final while their prospective opposition are battle hardened further with a quarter final tussle. 

Limerick Senior Hurling Championship: Round 4 Preview

The penultimate group fixtures are upon us this weekend. A couple of standout encounters in both Group A and B. Hawkeye Sidekick tries to do a bit better on his predictions after last weekend. 

Group A: Crunch time for Adare

Adare are in must win territory. After their draw against Doon last weekend, they are now faced with the prospect of facing a Na Piarsaigh side who survived a big scare against Kilmallock to secure a share of the spoils. With Na Piarsaigh on high alert, Adare could see a Na Piarsaigh backlash and with Shane Dowling in superb form last weekend; this is a fixture that I do not see Adare winning given their scoring threat. Forty-nine points in three games is not an average that will be threaten Na Piarsaigh who should win this game with a bit to spare (six points spread). 

The key fixture in this group is the meeting of Kilmallock and Patrickswell. A key fixture to determine who from the chasing pack will be the chief competition to Na Piarsaigh this year. Kilmallock will rue the closing exchanges of last weekend’s draw with Na Piarsaigh; a little more composure would have secured victory and they face a Patrickswell side who should be fresher after a routine victory over Ballybrown last weekend. There is not much between either side; going to sit on the fence and call another draw which would mean that Na Piarsaigh will top the group. 

Ballybrown after defeat to Patrickswell last weekend look consigned to an early championship exit. A promising opening period against their local rivals ebbed away and Patrickswell’s key players came to the party in the third quarter to win the contest. Doon need to get their season back on track and their performance against Adare was a mixed bag. The ability in the squad is there but the level of performance is not but this weekend should see the East Limerick side aided by O’Donovan, English, Ryan and Murphy to win by around four or five points. 

Group B: Monaleen and Murroe Boher key fixture

The key fixture in this group is the meeting of Monaleen and Murroe Boher; the top two in the group face off and whoever is victorious will have pretty close to a quarter final berth. Monaleen had a keynote six points win over South Liberties last weekend. Murroe Boher beat a most disappointing Cappamore side and the lack of test should be an issue this weekend. A key fixture for both rivals; was very impressed by Monaleen last weekend and with LaTouche-Cosgrave playing well, this is a fixture which the City side should start as favorites. A close one to two point win for Monaleen. 

Ahane and South Liberties play in another key group tussle at Cappamore. Let us hope that both sides have linesmen for the fixture given the lack of officials at the Ahane game last week against Knockainey. South Liberties started last weekend top of the table but their performance against Monaleen lacked bite from the first whistle. They need to regroup and respond this weekend; otherwise, their season is over. Ahane overcame Knockainey, a good third quarter providing the platform for victory as the East Limerick side won by six points. Ahane’s scoring threat is still a concern (44 points over three games) but defensively have being tight to date and that should secure another win here as South Liberties’ inconsistent performances as of date are set to continue. Ahane by three points. 

The last fixture in the group is the fixture of Cappamore and Knockainey. Both sides need a win to boost morale. Cappamore last weekend were well off the pace; struggled all over the pitch with Murroe Boher not seriously threatened. Knockainey had good opening period moments against Ahane, only trailed by a point but Ahane pulled away in the third quarter; the work rate from Knockainey was there until the final whistle. Last week, I would have tipped Cappamore to the hilt but seeing their performance against Murroe Boher, going to edge this encounter to Knockainey. 

Predictions:

Group A: Na Piarsaigh, Doon with a draw between Kilmallock / Well

Group B: Monaleen, Ahane and Knockainey

Limerick Senior Hurling Championship: Round 3 Preview

All the Liam McCarthy celebrations in Limerick will need to be put on hold for the next few weeks as the club championship takes center stage. The third round of Limerick SHC resumes tomorrow night. Hawkeye Sidekick will look to predict the outcomes. 

Group 1: Top Two Lock Horns

Local neighbors Patrickswell and Ballybrown will kick this group action off, always interesting games to say the least when these two get together. Ballybrown are playing knockout hurling; need a result here to have any chance of reaching at least a quarter final berth. Patrickswell have being inconsistent so far; a good win over Adare in round two then saw a three point reversal to Doon in round two.

Two teams who need to win to gain momentum for the rest of the championship. For Ballybrown to win, Alan O’Connor will need to be on point in open play and placed balls. The attacking threat of Patrickswell led by Gillane, Lynch should be sufficient to see Well home in this one, would not be surprised if a couple of red cards are issued. Well to quell the early Ballybrown storm and win by five points.

Adare like Ballybrown have lost their first two rounds against Patrickswell and Kilmallock by a combined twenty-three points. The points difference is not on Adare’s side and could be critical come the end of the group phase but they need to play significantly better to beat a Doon side who on their day is a match for anyone.

The East Limerick side will be buoyed by their All Ireland winners and plenty will be expected of Pat Ryan and Barry Murphy to provide keynote performances to alert Limerick management. Adare will depend on Declan Hannon and John Fitzgibbon to provide a platform; a lack of goal threat might be fatal here for Adare. Doon for me by four points.

Kilmallock and Na Piarsaigh is the mouth watering fixture of this championship round. Both come into this contest with 100% records and one will probably go at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night. So many intriguing match-ups; the midfield battle looks one to watch. Hanley vs. O’Donoghue will be fascinating.

The Na Piarsaigh juggernaut provided that they are rested and ready to go look the form side again this season. No genuine weak links and with the likes of Shane Dowling, Peter Casey keen to show their worth to county management, Kilmallock are going to have knuckle down and defend well throughout.

Close encounter as Kilmallock’s inside full forward line will take handling. Graeme Mulcahy in particular will pose a serious threat. Despite good moments from the South Limerick side, Na Piarsaigh hold the aces down the stretch and a potential two point win for the City side.

Group 2: All to play for

The second group in this competition has seen a variation in results. Four East Limerick teams coupled with Monaleen and Knockainey has seen only South Liberties as the only team to retain their 100% record. 

Ahane and Knockainey will lock horns in Cappamore on Friday night. Tricky game to call; long layoff for both sides in the championship and Knockainey did beat Ahane last season in the championship. 

Both sides have indifferent form heading into this tussle. Ahane’s opening round win against Cappamore was hard work and then disciplinary issues saw Ahane succumb to Murroe Boher narrowly.

The Ahane side has a nice mix of youth and experience. The Morrissey brothers will look to create a platform and think they have sufficient scoring quality to get over the line but it will be far from a classic. Ahane’s scoring return needs to improve or else Knockainey will scent another win over the East Limerick side. 

Murroe Boher and Cappamore face off in Caherconlish. A local derby game and one where form goes out the window. Both sides will look to push on with victory here. Murroe Boher started with a one point loss to South Liberties but then beat Ahane by a similar margin. 

Cappamore have shown organization and fight in their first two games. They were unlucky not to take a share of the spoils from Ahane in round one and then drew against Monaleen in their second outing. I would not be surprised if another draw was in the offing; two closely matched sides. 

South Liberties can take a massive step towards the quarter finals if they can beat Monaleen. South Liberties will look to Barry Nash to set the attacking platform. Monaleen have being out of sorts in recent rounds. Their opening round win over Knockainey was unconvincing and then had to be content with a share of the spoils over Cappamore. 

South Liberties for me are a better side than the two sides faced by Monaleen so far; a lot will depend on which side has built momentum in training in recent weeks. This is a dangerous fixture for South Liberties; edge it to the East Limerick side but it should be closer than some pundits may think given the long layoff between rounds two and three of this championship. 

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?

In March 1993, Limerick band The Cranberries released their debut album ‘Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?’. Among the several standout tracks in the album was ‘Dreams’, a song which is about feeling in love for the first time. 

The song has started to gain momentum and air play during the Limerick All Ireland Series run this year; a song now poignant due to the untimely passing of the legend that was, that is and always will be Dolores O’Riordan.

The feeling of having the coveted Liam McCarthy Cup back in Limerick after forty-five long years resonates with the song and celebrations in the city and county will go long into the winter. The homecoming party tomorrow will be one for the ages and hopefully we will not have to wait another forty-five years to win Liam McCarthy again. 

Limerick is my county of birth; a county in which I started to play hurling with Ahane, a club stepped in tradition, a club where the names of Mackey, Herbert, Ryan, Power are sacrosanct. Hurling is everything and the morale boost from club or county success flows through the parish always as homes and shops are decked out with messages of support.

I have seen the disappointment too all too often. I will never forget the club bus trip to the ’94 final; the collapse in the final ten minutes against Offaly was hard to take as the bus stopped at various watering holes to get over the shock before landing back at Newgarden GAA grounds at some ungodly hour.

The Limerick All Ireland win today is a triumph for everyone connected to the county; anyone associated with the association who has aided in the development of players from national school to club to county squads.

Limerick success today has being created in no small part by the underage structures established within the county; players identified at a young age and the system allowing for late bloomers to come into the county setup if they impress in underage games. 

Limerick’s win today will give hope to everyone next season in that if you commit to underage structures, commit as a senior squad to train hard and complement that with the best of the best backroom staff possible, anything is possible. The acquisition of Paul Kinnerk and Caroline Currid have being huge; their contribution to this triumph cannot be understated. Winning culture established. 

Limerick have had to look on with envy these last forty-five years with the success enjoyed by near neighbors. Clare, Tipperary, Cork have all basked in All Ireland glory and there have being difficult banter sessions with work colleagues from these counties at work offices in the Mid-West region during this period.

I am still in a state of shock; a state of disbelief that today has finally happened. Limerick have reached the summit; they have won Liam McCarthy. It will probably sink in more as the days go by but tonight, I think of majestic past Limerick players who did not get over the line. I think of Limerick friends in distance lands, Limerick friends unfortunately no longer here to enjoy this moment, some of which departed far too young. A touch emotional as I drove back to Galway tonight when reflecting on these thoughts earlier.

This is a triumph that has broken the inhibition of failure around Limerick hurling circles; broken down the dejection and sadness of past near misses. A triumph that will ignite hurling back throughout the county.

The Cranberries posed the question: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? Limerick Senior Hurling team have responded today. Limerick Senior Hurlers are doing it. Over and out from a proud Limerick man tonight. Roll on the homecoming tomorrow!

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final Thoughts


The Limerick quest for Liam McCarthy after forty -five years of disappointment and near misses is complete; a thrilling second half injury time where flashbacks of ’94 came back at a rate of knots. Limerick’s one point win to a gallant reigning champions Galway was created due to a number of key game moments. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on these. 

Puckout Strategy

If you want to know how this final was won, you just need to see the strategy from the puck outs. Nicky Quaid was quick to distribute to Finn and English where the distribution from the corner backs was confident, locating wing backs and wing forwards roving deep.

Galway on the other hand were devoid of momentum from the quick short puck outs. Tuohey and Hanbury looked to either take their man on and lose possession or hit aimless long high ball which was lapped up by the Limerick back line.

Credit to the Limerick middle third as well; their speed and movement to provide options for Nicky Quaid was a video analysis session for hurling teams looking to improve their puck out retention rates. This was a decisive part of the game.

Seamus Flanagan

The Feohanagh-Castlemahon forward has provided an added dimension to the Limerick full forward line. His pace and ability to rove in the middle third winning possession was to the fore after a slow opening quarter.

Flanagan’s work rate was typified in the lead up to the first Limerick goal. 50/50 challenge (Galway will say different) against Padraic Mannion saw the ball arrive at the hurl of Kyle Hayes who then dispatched a sharp pass inside to Graeme Mulcahy and the rest as they say is history. 

Flanagan posed different looks to the Galway full back line. Who would pick up the player? Flanagan scored a vital point just on half time and his confidence grow upon the restart looking for ball and bringing colleagues into the game. The forward ran his heart out for the cause and the young player can take pride on his cameo. 

Galway tension

Watching the contest at home, I was surprised that RTE had camera footage in the warm up area prior to throw-in. Limerick players seen going through their final prep but there was no footage of Galway. Why not? It was pretty baffling to say the least and the opening period performance saw a Galway side who were slow out of the blocks, tension filled in shot selection as well as Limerick. 

The hunted were feeling extreme pressure from the opening whistle as the Limerick mobility and work rate in the middle third was to the fore. The image of McInerney and Tuohey losing possession. The image of McInerney being shunted to the ground by Flanagan was an early momentum booster for Limerick who started to execute their game plan.

Galway’s game plan was unclear. Glynn struck a remote figure in the full forward position. Mike Casey must be applauded for sticking to the task but the ball and positioning of the player far out from the Limerick goal must have music to John Kiely’s and Limerick backroom staff’s eyes.

No clear plan for Conor Whelan as well; distribution inside to the full forward was hard work primarily due to Limerick’s middle third dominance but yet again Galway were taking the wrong shot selection with only Joe Canning and David Burke coming to the fore in the scoring department. 

Galway needed to hurt Limerick in the full back line; it only started in the 74th minute, far too late. Galway’s management will need to reflect on the tactics deployed today; struggled to address the Limerick threat and their forward line running lines were far too static. A sign perhaps of a long season and two epic replays to Kilkenny and Clare catching up on the players? 

Limerick Goals: Reward for work rate without the sliothar

All three Limerick goals were scored due to lost possession from Galway defensively. The first goal saw Padraic Mannion lose possession after a challenge from Flanagan. The second goal saw Tom Morrissey strip the ball from Gearoid McInerney who was quite struggling with fitness. The third goal will be the most galling for Galway; Tuohey looked at ease with the ball but dwelt too long to hit it allowing Peter Casey to win back possession and setup Dowling to score the decisive third goal. 

The goals that Limerick scored were full of work rate, determination and desire to win the ball back. No Limerick forward was static without the ball, constantly looking to support their defense, not giving the Galway defense any opportunity to setup and pick a pass to a midfield or forward line colleague. Galway forward line work rate without the ball were flat. Limerick back line were comfortable with the sliothar and distributing to the midfield and forward line with frequent accuracy. 

Wide Count

The end of the contest was exciting but in truth, Limerick made extremely hard work to close out the final. Several poor wides to put the game to bed allowing Galway to have a chance until the last puck of the game. Both sides were guilty of poor wides throughout. 

Limerick’s opening period was full of work rate and enthusiasm but the scoreboard perhaps failed to accurately reflect this. Four points up at the break, credit to Limerick with Kyle Hayes hitting the purple patch with some standout scores. Hayes was ably assisted by Mulcahy and Byrnes with key scores. 

Galway struggled for tempo upfront and several Galway forwards were under pressure with their shot selection; a couple of unusual shot selections from marquee Galway forwards during the third quarter in particular to put pressure on Limerick. Galway’s options of Niall Burke and Jason Flynn were thrown early; an indication of how the forward line units were performing. 

The wide count for each side was too big; in other years, this would not have being good enough to win an All Ireland title.

Galway Squad Depth Exploited

Galway’s squad contains several standout players from the bench but for whatever reason, their confidence and performance levels have not convinced management to give significant game time. Hanbury, McInerney were not fully fit; their movement on the pitch at times was exposed particularly when Limerick moved with pace. 

The departure of James Skehill from Galway goal saw Fergus Flannery come into the goals for his debut bow; a question mark why the backup keeper did not get game time in the Leinster SHC Round Robin particularly against Dublin? 

Galway depended on Padraic Mannion, Joe Canning and David Burke to get over the line again today. It did not work and O’Donoghue and management need to look at the squad depth coming off the bench; Limerick had key cameos today while Galway did not. Reflect and regroup. 

Man of the Match 

Limerick had several standout cameos. Finn and English in the corner back positions were excellent throughout. Mike Casey executed his game plan to negate Glynn to a tee. The half back to a man were superb. Byrnes chipped in with a couple of keynote scores. Hannan led from the front in that opening half with two sensational long range scores. Dan Morrissey was solid throughout with quality distribution. 

Cian Lynch and Darragh O’Donovan ran the legs off David Burke and Johnny Coen who was hauled off in the third quarter. Lynch’s possession win amongst several Galway players was a key momentum shift as the Patrickswell player scored a superb point from it. O’Donovan work rate around the pitch on point. 

The forward line unit worked well; good movement and distribution creating numerous scoring opportunities. Gillane was always a danger inside. Flanagan roved and caused Galway defensive issues. Graeme Mulcahy was the leader of the inside line; key scores and calmed down colleagues when required. 

The half forward line provided key Limerick cameos. Gearoid Hegarty won possession at regular intervals; selfless in distribution. Tom Morrissey chipped in yet more vital scores for his county; quality goal and then the teenager Kyle Hayes arrived to the hurling stage; an emphatic performance with several long range scores which created the buffer that Limerick required in the closing stages. Hayes for man of the match. 

Galway had heroic performances from Daithi Burke, David Burke, Padraic Mannion and Joe Canning but the accolade has to go to Limerick tonight. 

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final: Verdict

It has being a weird build up to this final for Hawkeye Sidekick; his county of birth (Limerick) vs. county of residence (Galway) this weekend and analyzing both sides, there looks precious little to separate either side. The verdict is as follows: 

How Galway win this contest? 

Expose Limerick final nerves early doors; look to pepper quick ball into the inside full forward line and test the Limerick full back line. Glynn on the edge of the square looks a massive threat. 

Take Cian Lynch out of the game; sounds sinister but Galway will look to man mark the midfield talent out of the game, expect Coen to be on marking duties. If Coen can produce the same man marking performance as he did against Tony Kelly in the All Ireland Semi-Final replay, Galway are going to win this contest. 

Clinical scoring rate; recent games has seen Galway’s attacking options waste some gilt edged opportunities, this has to improve this weekend in the final to keep Limerick at arm’s length. 

Half Back Line dominance. Question marks on McInerney’s fitness at the time of this post and if included, Limerick will look to see how fit the Oranmore Maree club man is. All Ireland winning teams usually are associated with superb half back line units; Galway’s unit has being stellar this season again and more of the same form is required on Sunday. 

How Limerick win this contest? 

Negotiate the early exchanges: Galway with All Ireland final experience will look to ambush Limerick early with some early scores. Limerick and in particular the half-back line need to stand up strong in these exchanges; establish some early aerial battle wins and look to protect the likes of Mike Casey in the opening exchanges. 

Goals win games: Limerick have created several keynote goal scoring chances in recent fixtures but lack of composure in front of goal has being a trend for the likes of Gillane and Flanagan. These players if given goal opportunities need to convert this weekend. 

Get Cian Lynch into the game: If Limerick are to win this contest, then Cian Lynch will need to be a standout performer. Lynch will be given special attention from Galway but Lynch needs to be savvy to this; good first touch and quick distribution to colleagues. Limerick’s puck out strategy should look to create space for Lynch to establish a platform to impress. 

The Bench: If Limerick can keep their composure and handle the occasion, the bench will play a pivotal role in the final quarter. The introduction of Casey, Dowling, Nash, O’Donoghue, Ryan, Hickey are key squad assets and their cameos should bring the side over the line if the game is in the melting pot. Galway have struggled to identify anyone off the bench apart from Niall Burke, Jason Flynn, Sean Loftus and Davy Glennon which limits their hand. 

Verdict:

Slight edge for Galway on this fixture. The opening exchanges are going to be absolutely key. I question how Limerick will handle the occasion? Galway will look to bully and impose their game plan early doors and Limerick’s reaction to this will be crucial. The central attacking axis for Galway worries me from a Limerick perspective. Canning and Glynn could collectively cause serious issues if given time and space. 

For Limerick to win, it is going to be a come from behind effort coming into the final quarter. If the deficit is not too big (five / six points), the squad depth options will prove crucial. Limerick’s full forward line can test this Galway full back line if given accurate ball in. Dowling down the stretch could be the key figure as Galway start to wane. 

However until you beat the champions, you are not favorites in my eyes and for this I edge the final to Galway right now. They are the reigning champions, they deserve the respect and favorites tag given their last two seasons of work.

Limerick need to play without fear and play with pace and mobility. The final should be embraced by players and management. The fans lucky enough to get tickets will need to support the side and not be too hard on them when Galway have periods of dominance.

No regrets from Limerick should be the mantra; if the Limerick players and management can come off the pitch with this key point accomplished, Liam McCarthy will be heading to Shannonside.

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final: Key Battles

Final showdown

This time next week, we could potentially know who has their hands on Liam McCarthy this year.

Will it be a two in a row for Galway or will the youth and potential of Limerick shine through for a first All Ireland Senior Hurling title for the county since ’73? Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the key battles ahead of the final.

Handling the Occasion 

Playing in the showpiece hurling fixture of the year can be viewed with two schools of thoughts: relish the occasion and play without fear or let the occasion consume you and let the day pass you by. 

Limerick team since ’73 have being guilty of the latter. Kilkenny particularly in ’07 exposed Limerick naivety as they bullied the side in the opening exchanges to establish a match winning position. Seamus Hickey no doubt will be conveying his experiences of that game to his colleagues. 

Galway have experienced mixed days on All Ireland final day. Last year was a welcome relief; getting over the winning line at last after several near misses. A fixture where marquee players may be outshone by players who are not mentioned in the lead-up. 

How Galway and particularly the young Limerick side handle this occasion will be the primary key battle to win before the sliothar is thrown on Sunday afternoon at 3:30pm. 

Battle of the Goalkeepers 

The performance of the two goalkeepers will be interesting to watch. With the modern game so dependent now on quick, accurate delivery from the puck outs; both net minders will be under pressure early to find their outfield colleagues to increase overall team confidence. 

Skehill has being the standout number one for Galway this season and the net minder has impressed early in games with his distribution; one trend I noticed during the two recent Clare contests was his persistence to hit long once Clare were dominating in the middle third. Galway movement for the keeper was not as fluent as it was in the opening quarter and a repeat will be play into Limerick’s hands. 

Nicky Quaid for Limerick has provided efficient puck out delivery; his corner back and wing backs providing the Effin net minder with quick options at all times to launch attacks. Quaid will look to involve Darragh O’Donovan and potential game changer Cian Lynch with early touches if the situation allows. 

Both keepers are excellent shot stoppers; Skehill is such an imposing figure for Galway; his play to date has being solid and that is what a full back line requires; no frills, unspectacular but solid goalkeeping. Limerick’s pace inside and ability to create space for Gillane will add a new defensive problem for Galway to deal with. Skehill needs to be proactive coming out of his goal to cleanup misplaced delivery into the full back line. 

Nicky Quaid has pulled Limerick out of a couple of dangerous situations in recent games; his saves against Cork from Kingston in the opening period and then the flick away from Harnedy was sublime. Quaid will hope that Limerick defensive lapses are at a minimum but with the threat of Jonathan Glynn at full forward, Quaid will need to communicate well with Mike Casey and corner backs to quell that threat. 

Midfield Battle 

The most intriguing battle on Sunday will be in the midfield area; both units are more than capable of producing key cameos to setup victory for their respective team. 

David Burke and Cian Lynch will be the players of note here but lest not forget their midfield partners in crime. Johnny Coen and Darragh O’Donovan play pivotal roles for both sides. 

Coen was superb against Clare in the All Ireland Semi-Final replay; his deployment to man mark Tony Kelly subdued Clare’s talisman. Coen has being prominent in his attacking play this season; a couple of standout scores in the All Ireland series evidence of this. 

Darragh O’Donovan is the classic box to box midfielder; his distribution and side line cut threat is a real asset to Limerick and complements Lynch’s game perfectly. Lynch will look to create and probe while O’Donovan’s running game and ability to close out opposition attacks in defensive positions has being on point this season. A key cog in the Limerick middle third. 

David Burke. Captain fantastic and a key leader in this Galway side. Burke’s ability to vary his style of play comes to the fore; his ability to support run and unerring accuracy to hit scores from long distance provides Galway with a key weapon on Sunday. Burke is not afraid to mix it physically if need be for the greater good of the team. 

For Limerick to win on Sunday, Cian Lynch’s performance will be key. The Patrickswell club man will need to hold his nerve on Sunday as Galway will look to double mark the star player early doors. Lynch will need to be sharp with his distribution and first touch to get others involved and then gradually look to control affairs with his running from deep. His goal from Cork was everything good from Lynch; ability to sense a goal scoring chance by making the run inside, ability to shot with precision was superb. 

Superb clash awaits and it will be a fascinating first quarter of exchanges to see who gains the upper hand. 

Half Back Battle 

The key positional battle on Sunday. The big question is whether Gearoid McInerney’s will start? It looks like the Oranmore-Maree club man is winning his fitness battle for the showpiece event at the time of this blog post.  

McInerney’s inclusion will be keenly noted by Limerick. How will McInerney manage the game given his recent injury issues? His movement will be tested early doors by Kyle Hayes with his powerful run game. McInerney may deploy in front of the Limerick full forward and look to negate the Limerick distribution plays inside. 

If McInerney is not fit to participate, Galway will look again to Joseph Cooney, Padraic Mannion and Aidan Harte to dominate proceedings. Cooney was sublime last time out and along with Harte provided key cameos but it was display of Mannion which caught the eye; the number of possessions, his ability to launch attacks with quick passing was sensational. Alternatives for sure but it does not lent itself for rotation if issues arise as Limerick’s half forward line have the aerial ability and movement to cause issues for Galway. 

Declan Hannan’s role on Sunday is a key role for Limerick. How does Limerick’s half-back negate the threat of Joe Canning while contending with the threat inside of Jonathan Glynn?

Hannan is going to have throw different looks during the contest to unsettle Galway’s attacking play. Limerick’s middle third work rate will need to be on point when Hannan decides to deploy just in front of the full back line.

Hannan, Byrnes and Dan Morrissey had mixed afternoons against Cork who exposed positional defensive lapses and poor distribution options to score several points. Byrnes and Morrissey need to set the aerial dominance from the first exchanges to allow Hannan to game manage in the pocket. 

Forward Line Battle 

The forward lines on show have the potential and ability to pose issues for their respective opposition. Galway will look to go for the throat early and the opening exchanges should see Glynn given an opportunity to test out Limerick’s full back unit. Casey will need assistance to negate the threat and Hannan, English, Finn will need to step up to the plate when they can. 

Joe Canning obviously is the key cog of the Galway forward line. His free taking, side line cut prowess, threat with sliothar as well as his work rate and tackling leads by example. The rest of the forward line unit follows and with Cathal Mannion providing key scoring cameos from long distance along with the threat of the likes of Conor Whelan, Galway are well set to test out Limerick’s defensive credentials. 

For Limerick, their forward line’s movement and awareness of space to allow colleagues to expose a defensive gap has being on joy this season. The distribution from the middle third has allowed Flanagan, Mulcahy and Gillane ample opportunities to impress. Gillane’s goal threat seen in recent fixtures and sense that if Galway give opportunities for the Patrickswell player, he will punish those chances in the showpiece event. 

Flanagan for me has a huge role to play on Sunday. The full forward’s pace has to test Daithi Burke and ask questions of Burke whether he follows his marker or allows the player the time and space to score. Key decision for Galway management to negate this threat. 

Limerick’s half forward line need to deliver this weekend. Hegarty’s performance against Cork saved the unit as Hayes and Morrissey had inconsistent cameos for long periods. Early momentum shift for Limerick in this line is good news for Limerick in the overall context of this game. 

Bench Impact

Loving the impact off the bench from Limerick this season. Limerick remain me of an ice hockey side; the first line coming off in the third quarter to be replaced with a line equally as potent. 

Experience, game winners and game management to the fore with Shane Dowling, Peter Casey, Barry Nash, Pat Ryan, William O’Donoghue, Seamus Hickey to call upon and their cameos against Cork in extra time were too much for the Rebels. 

Dowling’s leadership in the All Ireland series has being inspirational; his post game comments after the Cork game have set the tone and Limerick will deliver a performance on Sunday. 

The Limerick bench is loaded with options but Galway’s squad depth has being minimal. There is several standout players in the ranks but management have stuck to Flynn, Niall Burke, Sean Loftus and Davy Glennon as options in the last two Clare contests. 

If Limerick can be in and around Galway heading into the final quarter, just wonder if the impetus of fresh legs and energy will be the difference here?

All Ireland Senior Hurling Final: Initial Thoughts

Two weeks out from the All Ireland Senior Hurling Final. Galway (my county of residence) face Limerick (my county of birth); an interesting couple of weeks beckon in the office with work colleagues. Several key battles initially come to mind. Hawkeye Sidekick tries to be balanced but is proving exceedingly hard. 

Final Temperament 

Limerick appear in their first All Ireland Senior Hurling final since 2007. The majority of the squad are sampling their first senior All Ireland final; they can go one of two ways – let the occasion take hold, nervy performance or embrace the occasion which all these players have dreamed about in the back garden or local GAA pitch. Given their win against Cork, the hope is that Limerick will embrace the occasion and play without fear like they have done throughout this season. 

Galway are well seasoned to the rigors of All Ireland final day. An unforgettable win twelve months erased several heartbreaking recent losses to Kilkenny and this group of players ad management will look to drive on and secure back to back victories. Their experience of last year’s encounter surely counts for something on the day. 

Attacking Threats

Both sides possess serious attacking threats. It will be interesting to see how Galway counteract Limerick’s attacking movement. Flanagan at full forward has a huge role to play in the final; he will look to rove around the half forward line at times to create space. Does Daithi Burke go with the player or look for Mannion / Cooney / Harte to pick up the player? 

Jonathan Glynn’s inside full forward threat is a real concern for Limerick. Mike Casey is a solid full back as seen in recent weeks, when Glynn is provided with excellent quick ball, the full forward can be devastating. How do Limerick counter-act the threat? Look to deploy Declan Hannan a little further back as protection but then this leaves Joe Canning with space on the forty to score at will. A threat which Limerick need to be think and long hard about ahead of this final. 

The goal scoring threat from Limerick has being seen in this championship with several keynote chances created against Kilkenny and Cork. Aaron Gillane if given sufficient ball looks capable of winning this contest for Limerick; his composure in front of goal will be duly noted but a player of undoubted quality could provide a decisive moment in this contest for Limerick. Graeme Mulcahy has provided experience and composure with vital scores this season; more of the same is required in the final. 

Galway’s ability to take scores from long range is to the fore. Cathal Mannion is such a talent; he makes the game look so easy and has the ability to score 0-4 or 0-5 from play to setup a decisive platform for victory. Joe Canning. The leader of this attacking unit. His ability to score and also distribute seen to full effect this season. Side line cut prowess noted. Conor Whelan is a tenacious inside forward line threat; superb ball winner and his scoring ratio has improved this season. Conor Cooney, Niall Burke, Jason Flynn and Joseph Cooney all well capable of winning ball and scoring pivotal scores. 

Limerick’s forward line options have shown their potential in recent fixtures. Hegarty against Cork was superb; dominant under the dropping ball and chipping in with several key points. Kyle Hayes at center forward provides youth, pace and raw power. Hayes is well capable of scoring a couple of points from play. Tom Morrissey against Kilkenny was a Limerick standout; the Ahane clubman will look to produce that level of performance in the final. His skill set and scoring to the fore this season. A talented, pacy half forward line who will pose aerial and movement problems for Galway. Limerick’s half forward needs to fire in the final.  

Defensive Issues? 

Both sides have defensive questions to answer ahead of the final. Is Gearoid McInerney going to be fit in time for the final? The half back unit last weekend were heroic and it was a masterstroke from Galway management to deploy Padraic Mannion as a sweeper. Do you change the unit after such an emphatic outing? 

Galway’s corner back positions potentially could be in for a long afternoon. Limerick will look to probe the corner backs with sharp, incisive distribution from midfield and half-back line units. Tuohy and Hanesbury will need protection from their half back line, otherwise Limerick could wreck havoc on the flanks. 

Limerick’s full back line have played solid throughout. The Glynn threat is a massive test but it is the half back line which is the most concern for Limerick defensively ahead of this final. Cork exposed Limerick’s half-back line more than once in positional play; resulting in several goal chances (one taken) and several points from long range where Daniel Kearney was to the fore. 

Declan Hannan, Diarmuid Byrnes and Dan Morrissey need to set the platform for Limerick in this final; provide aerial dominance in the first quarter when Galway will look to make their game winning attempt. Limerick have to be so solid in this opening period and the half back line are key to this. 

Midfield Intriguing 

The midfield duel will be fascinating. Two quality midfield units in opposition. David Burke and Johnny Coen have established themselves as the de-facto midfield partnerhip. Both are equally strong in attacking and defensive duties; always supporting their colleagues. Limerick’s midfield unit has pace and skill set.

Darragh O’Donovan will be the box to box midfielder while Cian Lynch will look to create and identify the right times to run with the ball into Galway defensive areas to create goals or tack on points. Does Coen look to shackle Lynch?

O’Donovan vs. Burke will be a good clash of styles as well; both well capable of scoring heavy from open play. Burke’s performance is the gauge for Galway; if the St.Thomas’ man is having a blinder, Galway are well on their way. Likewise for Cian Lynch and his impact for Limerick.

Squad Bench Impact

If Limerick can survive the opening period exchanges, they are in with a right chance of victory. Their bench options look particularly strong. The cameos of Hickey defensively, O’Donoghue’s midfield physicality and then the attacking threat from Dowling, Casey, Nash, Ryan and Reidy. 2-6 cameo on August 19th will see Limerick win Liam McCarthy. Dowling’s leadership in the final quarter will be so vital. 

Galway’s squad depth is superb but Galway management have not looked to clear the bench against Clare. If you take Davy Glennon’s brief cameo out, only Loftus was introduced to the back line while Flynn was thrust into action in the forward line. Limerick should be fresher, wondering if the same will be true for Galway? 

Nicky Quaid: All Ireland Semi-Final Saves

Running through the game tape of the epic All Ireland Senior Hurling semi-final yesterday, it would be remiss of me not to add these GIF clips. Both saves from Nicky Quaid was incredible and were decisive factors in Limerick heading to an All Ireland final. Kudos to the Effin net minder, exceptional saves!

Shane Kingston Save

 

Seamus Harnedy Save