THIS Sunday, the ultimate prize is on offer as Limerick meet Galway in the 2020 All-Ireland semi-final.
It is the first meeting of the sides since the decider in 2018 with Galway’s late revival not enough to stop Limerick clinching the Liam MacCarthy cup.
The winners on Sunday will face either Waterford or Kilkenny who meet on Saturday evening at GAA HQ.
Ahead of Sunday’s clash, check out the key talking points below.
Revenge on the mind for both sides
The last time these sides met, Limerick dethroned the then All-Ireland champions in a brilliant contest in Croke Park. Limerick almost let an eight point lead slip in added time but held on to win a first All-Ireland title since 1973.
While no one in the Galway camp will say that revenge for that final loss will be mentioned in the build up, it’s foolish to suggest otherwise considering it is Galways first semi-final appearance since 2018 after they fell in Leinster last summer.
Galway only have five All-Ireland titles to their name and they will still feel aggrieved as to how they didn’t make it six in August 2018.
On the other side, Limerick will be keen to avenge the loss suffered at the same stage in the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final.
Coming into that game with Kilkenny as Munster champions, Limerick were expected to move into a second consecutive final after destroying Tipperary in the provincial final.
However, Kilkenny brought an unbelieveable intensity to that game and were 1-8 to 0-3 to the good after a quarter of an hour.
Limerick could not recover from that early blitz and relinquished their title to Kilkenny who had a point to spare in the end.
Undoubtedly. this Sunday, both sides will have their own agendas to address if they are to advance.
What Limerick line up will we see?
It has quickly become a running theme to question how John Kiely will send out his starting XV on the pitch with the Galbally man changing things up in 2020.
Few would have predicted Barry Nash’s move to corner back, or Dan Morrissey’s to full with injuries certainly playing their part.
However, the versatility of Kyle Hayes and Cian Lynch has seen the duo move positions with ease with Hayes reverting to wing back and the Patrickswell man operating between midfield and centre-forward.
Richie English’s return could also see a potential shake up with the All Star corner back ready to go according to Kiely.
As such it will be difficult for Shane O’Neill to plan for the Limerick onslaught but in the same regard, the Caherdavin man could go a number of ways with Galway equally adept at manoeuvring their side.
Both Mannions could move into midfield with Cathal a skilled forward and Padraic a perennial All Star defender. Equally Joe Canning could play anywhere in the forward line. Joe Cooney has moved into the wing back line but could match up well physically with Limerick’s half-backs if needed.
One thing is for sure, we will have to wait until 4pm on Sunday to know for sure how the teams will line up.
Shane O’Neill factor
In his first year as a senior intercounty manager, Limerick’s Shane O’Neill has taken like a duck to water. While there were some learning curves in the League, O’Neill announced himself to the nation in the Leinster quarter-final as they dominated Davy Fitz’ Wexford in Croker.
However, their naivety cost them against Kilkenny as they let a lead slip to a pair of quickfire goals against Cody’s side. As such, O’Neill and his men will feel they should be in the other side of the draw to Limerick as Leinster champions.
But they are where they are and O’Neill will know the Limerick contingent inside out after guiding his native club Na Piarsaigh to every possible accolade, including an All-Ireland club title, Limerick’s first.
He helped transform William O’Donoghue and Peter Casey into the players we know today and will know the rest from his time managing in the Limerick SHC.
His knowledge of Limerick hurling will be a huge boost in the Galway dressing room and the players can feed off this first hand experience.
But O’Neill will know that his side will have to be on their game if he is to get one over on his own county.
In that aforementioned All-Ireland final win over Galway in 2018, the Tribesmen as defending champions were rightly labelled as favourites against Kiely’s inexperienced side.
That contest would prove another turning point for Limerick hurling as the Shannonsiders bridged a 45-year gap since their previous All-Ireland triumph in ’73.
On Sunday, Limerick will be undoubted favourites as they have captured every other title since that day in Croke Park.
Kiely’s team have won both of the League and Munster titles since that game and reached the semi-final of the All-Ireland in 2019.
Subsequently. the favourites tag will be nothing new to this Limerick team but they have shown that they do perform exceptionally well as underdogs.
The wins over Kilkenny,Cork and Galway in 2018 were as underdogs as was their Munster final demolition job against Tipp last Summer.
To their credit, they have entered each game this year as favourites and got the job done.
But a below-par performance as pre-match favourites like the one in Croke Park last July will see Limerick crash out at the same stage.
Limerick play Galway this Sunday at 4m in Croke Park in the 2020 All-Ireland Hurling semi-final.
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