The whispers are that there is no jeopardy so far this season in the football championship.
That may very well be true. However, it couldn’t be further from the truth when we look at the hurling season, particularly in Munster.
The football season is designed in such a way that all the top teams get through based on league status and provincial progress.
Munster hurling on the other hand is designed in a way that one, if not two, top sides will have their season over by the end of May.
Outside of Waterford, the four Munster hurling teams are playing for their lives to stay in the championship. No dead rubbers here.
And yes, the possibility that Limerick may not progress is also on the cards.
So, we ask, what has happened to Limerick so far this season?
Limerick had just survived an extremely close Munster encounter against Waterford the first day out in the championship . . . little was known about Waterford’s woes at this point, so a two-point victory was seen as a positive start.
Especially given the fact that Limerick had won while playing with 14 men from the 48th minute onwards.
So the idea that this was a team ready to crank up the gears and bash their way through the championship was by then the only possibility.
But here’s the cruelty about Munster hurling, one slip-up and it has costly ramifications.
For John Kiely’s men, they’ve only had one other game.
And yet that 1-24 to 2-20 defeat at home to Clare might finally be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Limerick, as Tipperary welcome them to Semple Stadium this weekend in the clash of two heavyweight giants.
Tactically against Clare, the All-Ireland champions didn’t seem to be outthought but rather outworked.
Clare won the ball not in their own puck-outs but rather in hooks, blocks and Limerick’s unforced errors.
This seems very uncharacteristic from a current batch of champions, but at the same time Limerick can never be taken for granted.
Rewind 12 months ago, the Treaty were apparently a broken team coming off a horrendous league campaign.
Outside questions began to circulate around the camp. There was the idea that trying to retain their dominance, especially coming back off the decline from a poor 2022 league, will be too much for some players.
However, fast-forward 12 months and now new outside questions are beginning to circulate.
Now there’s the idea that maintaining their dominance coming off a successful league campaign, which is so close to the Munster championship,, is starting to take its toll.
This is on top of the talk of Limerick players leaving the panel this week, alongside the reality that the All-Ireland champions will have to cope without Seán Finn for the rest of this season.
It’s only rumours of course and their defeat to Clare is only one game, but it seems to be stress Kiely and his team can do without.
So, how’s Munster starting to shape up?
Right now, Clare top the group with four points from three games.
They have played once more than Cork and Tipperary, who have three points, and also Limerick, who lie fourth on two points.
This means there is one subsequent nightmare for Limerick that can occur this weekend: If Cork beat Clare this Sunday and Limerick lose to Tipperary, then the champions are eliminated – with a round to go.
But in tackling Tipperary, it’s not all doom and gloom.
The champions come into this game knowing that this current high-flying Premier side have also conceded seven goals in two championship matches.
So, the prospect for Limerick to find gaps in the Tipp defence and force their way into goal opportunities lies very high at the minute.
But it will also be at the forefront of Liam Cahill’s mind in errors he needs to clean up on.
Over recent years Limerick have had the measure of the blue and gold, but this Cahill-drilled team have the best opportunity to shine in many years.
For Limerick this is do-or-die and, if we know anything about Kiely’s teams in the past, that makes them a dangerous animal.
TIPPERARY v LIMERICK
- Tipperary are on three points after two games; Limerick are on two points from two games.
- The counties have met 75 times in the championship (71 in Munster, once in the All-Ireland semi-final (2009) and once in the All-Ireland Qualifiers (2004) with the results standing as follows: Tipperary 36 wins; Limerick 28 wins; Draws 10.
- Limerick have beaten Tipperary in their last four championship clashes.
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