2023 Munster SHC Final Preview

TUS Gaelic Grounds

This season’s Munster SHC campaign has been regarded as one of the best provincial championships in recent memory.

Several fantastic fixtures in the round robin series has culminated in Limerick and Clare renewing local rivalries in TUS Gaelic Grounds this weekend to decide who will secure the Mick Mackey Cup.

Hawkeye Sidekick previews the action and looks at where Clare and Limerick may win this provincial crown. Can Limerick retain or can Clare bridge the 25 year gap for provincial honours at this level?

What do Clare need to do on Sunday?

Follow the round robin fixture win template

The round two round robin win over Limerick in the Ennis Road venue is the blueprint on what needs to go right for Clare this Sunday. They fully merited their 1-24 to 2-20 win over a Limerick side who were playing catch-up for long periods.

Can Conlon game manage Clare to victory again?

Clare nullified the Limerick half-forward line unit of Hegarty and Lynch particularly as John Conlon produced a superb man of the match performance. His middle third colleagues must take massive credit for the sheer work rate and application on the day. The hooks, the turnover ball and distribution to the forward line unit were excellent on the day.

Bench Impact

The bench impact from Clare was immense with scores from play from Shanagher down the stretch to complement the scoring prowess of Tony Kelly, Peter Duggan, Mark Rodgers and Aidan McCarthy. Rodgers and McCarthy have provided extra attacking threat to complement Kelly who will expect to create space in the middle third.

Midfield supremacy

The battle between Will O’Donoghue / Darragh O’Donovan vs. Cathal Malone and David Fitzgerald will be worth the gate admission fee alone. For Clare to have any chance of winning this fixture, the Clare midfield duo need to stifle the influence of their Limerick counterparts.

O’Donovan’s ability to link play between backs and forwards stands out. O’Donoghue as a primary ball winner and distributor is to the fore and provides an attacking platform for Limerick. Malone is an unheralded player who allows Fitzgerald to maraud up the field, his ability to game read and win primary ball will be crucial to the final outcome on Sunday.

Throw different looks at Limerick

You would anticipate that Clare will throw Limerick different looks on Sunday. Shane O’Donnell named at full forward but you would suspect that the Eire Og clubman will look to roam around the half-forward line to create space for McCarthy / Duggan and Rodgers inside.

Duggan as a full forward threat will be used at some point. His goal when these two teams last met was a decisive score. The Clooney-Quin clubman is growing into the season and his physicality under the dropping ball will be a valuable asset on Sunday. Primary ball possession is key for Duggan and Clare’s half-forward line this weekend.

Gaelic Grounds switch is a shrewd move from Clare

The wrangle over the hosting of this fixture ended with the curveball of TUS Gaelic Grounds been chosen by Clare. A home final for Limerick. Clare have laid down the gauntlet and stating that they will beat Limerick again on home soil for a second successive time. The venue is no distance for Clare and when you consider that several players played for Ard Scoil Ris, the location holds no trepidation.

It is a move which could payoff for Brian Lohan’s charges. They would have liked Thurles (who wouldn’t) but the Ennis Road venue holds no fear. Clare are out to win a first Munster SHC title since 1998. Time to write so many wrongs on Sunday afternoon. Tony Kelly craves the Munster SHC so plenty of motivation from last season to fall back on down the stretch to secure a long awaited Mick Mackey Cup triumph.

What do Limerick have to do to win on Sunday?

Shooting accuracy

The prevailing theme so far for Limerick in this championship has been shooting accuracy. Their inability to convert chances has allowed teams to get extremely close in the round robin fixtures. 57% accuracy against Cork was real get out jail numbers. Cork shot 77% accuracy and still lost!

Limerick like Clare have been guilty this season of some poor shot selection and wides. Limerick have more work to do leading into this final. Their past experience with Clare and how the Banner pressed will not have gone unnoticed. Can Limerick step up their run game to create an easier scoring opportunity?

Conor Cleary

The fitness of the Clare full back has been subject to much speculation this week. A shoulder injury is always a tricky one to recover from. If you come back too early, more damage can be done. I am not convinced by this inclusion here. Limerick will no doubt look to test Cleary out immediately if the player features.

I remain convinced that Clare will deploy a sweeper in front of Cleary to negate any threat from Limerick inside. Cleary is required as there is no alternative full back option available. Cleary may need to take one for the team to secure victory. We will see how that goes. An early withdrawal could be disastrous for Clare.

Peter Casey

The focus for Limerick inside in the full forward line has been Seamus Flanagan and Aaron Gillane but the influence that Peter Casey will have on this game will be a massive influence on Sunday.

Flanagan was standout last season scoring eight points throughout but Peter Casey’s movement and guile may yield additional scores for Limerick this time around.

Aaron Gillane will be watched like a hawk by Clare so more opportunities for Casey to become the key man this weekend. Casey has the ability to win a game on his own and it is now time for the Na Piarsaigh clubman to shine.

How does one stop Tony Kelly?

Tony Kelly has enjoyed his fixtures against Limerick who have decided to defend space and not man mark the player.

Mikey Butler and Cathal Barrett have demonstrated the benefits of man marking Kelly but I do not see Limerick evolving their game plan looking instead to the middle third lines to track Kelly where possible.

Kelly’s influence needs to be curbed on Sunday but Limerick may decide to focus their attentions on other Clare attacking threats inside to prevent goal concessions. The setup on Kelly will be interesting. Will Barry Nash deploy as that man marker on Kelly at times?

Establish the run game from deep

Limerick at their prime have executed a superb running game from deep, passing through the lines to create scoring opportunities. Teams in provincial fare have attempted to negate the impact of Hayes and Byrnes from deep but Limerick’s performance against Cork suggests improvement in that area of play. The midfield unit orchestration and cohesion is growing with each game and if the half-back and midfield can provide a platform, it will allow Limerick’s forward line unit to impress massively.

Lynch cameo

It has been a trying provincial championship for Cian Lynch. Teams have looked to takeaway the space in front of the player and then injury concerns have seen just cameo appearances off the bench,

The hope on Sunday is that Lynch is allow to roam around the middle third and take a Tony Kelly like role in the third quarter. Lynch will revel in a final where both teams will start to tire in the second half.

It is setup for the Patrickswell man to become a match winner in scoring and assists. It could complement Cathal O’Neill’s cameo who will look to get on ball and shoot scores from distance.

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