If we were to describe the Limerick hurlers in racing terms this week, the best description would be “lightly raced”. Just three teams are still standing in the race for the Liam McCarthy Cup and of those three teams, Clare have already hurled five matches in the championship, Cork have played four times and Limerick have had just two outings. They were the favourites to win the trophy before last Sunday’s semi-final – obviously Cork have taken over that mantle now that they have just one game left to play – and the question we’ve to ask ourselves is this; were they favourites because they were the best team, or did they just have fewer chances to expose their flaws?
Starting as favourites in an All Ireland semi final is very much alien territory for a Limerick team, yet there is some logic to that pricing. Clare were very impressive in their quarter final round but their style of play frustrates a lot of people, while it depends hugely on their ability to wear down their opponents and then turn up the heat in the closing stages. Davie Fitzgerald’s charges crushed Wexford in extra time and they did the bulk of the damage against Galway and Waterford in the last ten or fifteen minutes. It’s equally notable that Cork, who can match Clare for youth and effervescence, were able to resist that late surge from the Banner men and consequently, the Munster semi-final went Cork’s way.
Following that line of thought, it’s logical to believe that if Limerick are going to win this tie, they’re going to have to get out in front and hold on. That’s not meant as a sideswipe at the fitness of John Allen’s charges – far from it – however Clare will look to finish powerfully and it would be foolish to ignore the difference in age profile between the squads. Paddy Power bet 8/11 about Limerick winning the match and 13/8 about Limerick leading at half time and winning. Indeed if ever there was a good game to back the “score first, lead at HT and win” market, this is the game – Powers bet Limerick at 10/3 for that one.
The minor hurlers also received something of a formline boost last week when Waterford beat Kilkenny in the first of the two minor deciders. Limerick minors go up against Galway this weekend and based on the difficulty that Galway experienced in getting over the challenge of a very moderate Laois team in the quarter finals, this might be a good year to meet the young Tribesmen. Mattie Murphy remains in charge and understandably the bookies are paying him a lot of respect, but when we consider what Limerick have done so far this year and match that up with Galway, who have just played one game against Laois, the match handicap of one point looks desperately short. Powers bet 3/1 about Limerick winning by six points or more – unless Galway improve considerably, that could turn out to be great value.
by Kevin Egan