Limerick are laser focused on championship

John’s Kiely’s side lining out against Clare earlier this year in the Munster Hurling League. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach.

A BID by All-Ireland kingpins Limerick to win the Munster Senior Hurling Championship for a sixth year on the trot will commence with a tasty opener against National League winners Clare at a long sold-out (20,100) Cusack Park, Ennis on Sunday (2pm).

In a repeat of last summer’s epic provincial final, John Kiely’s side have been installed as favourites to collect full points to kick-start the round-robin stages.

At the launch of Eir’s continued sponsorship of the championship, Limerick captain Declan Hannon was full of praise for this weekend’s opponents.

“They’re clearly the form team at the minute,” Hannon told RTÉ Sport.

“They’ve been really strong throughout the league, really good performances. Their consistency has been really strong, they were hugely impressive and probably the better team on the day (against Kilkenny, who soundly beat Limerick in the semi-final) as well.

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“Going down to Ennis, it’s a small compact stadium, there will be a fantastic atmosphere which there has been over the last number of years between Limerick and Clare, and going back a long time ago as well.

“We can’t wait, it’s great. The championship came around quickly so we’re looking forward to it.”

Limerick will be without the suspended Peter Casey and injured Darragh O’Donovan.

Cathal O’Neill, however, is likely to be on the starting blocks, following a superb league campaign.

Questioned about the possible historic nature of 2024 at the start of the year, a mature 21-year-old O’Neill said that “it doesn’t really come into our camp to be honest. Munster is so competitive that if you take your eye off the ball for one second, you will be beaten.”

“I can’t see our players or management that they are going to take their eye off the ball and think about what if or what will happen.

“The moment you take your eye off the ball is the moment you perform poor and get beaten. We are only performance-based, and that is all we are thinking about. We are only thinking about trying to perform as best we can in April and May and seeing where that takes us.”

Colm Lyons of Cork will referee.