Tonight, Limerick v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds, 7.30pm, (Ref: Michael Wadding, Waterford)
Latest from the medics and management…Lorrha & Dorrha clubman Cian Hogan is selected at full-forward on the Tipperary team instead of the injured David Collins, a member of last year’s county senior winning Drom-Inch side. That’s the only change from the team that defeated Cork in the opening round last month. Centre-forward Sean Curran, whose older brother Paul captained the county side to the Munster title last week, is the only senior panelist in the Premier ranks.
TIPPERARY U21H: Paul Ryan (Upperchurch-Drombane); Stephen Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Andrew Ryan (Toomevara), Pa Ryan (Clonakenny); Willie Ryan (Clonakenny), Brian Stapleton (Templederry Kenyons), Justin Cahill (Kilruane MacDonaghs); Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh); John O’Dwyer (Killenaule), Sean Curran (Mullinahone), Niall O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonaghs); Eanna Murray (Templederry Kenyons), Cian Hogan (Lorrha & Dorrha), Liam McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney).
Holders Limerick have named a strong outfit with six players – goalkeeper Aaron Murphy, half-backs Declan Hannon and Tom Ryan, and attacking trio Shane Dowling, Mark Carmody and Kevin Downes – who were part of the senior panel that triumphed in last Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier win over Clare. There are nine survivors from the starting fifteen that defeated Cork in last August’s epic Munster final in the Gaelic Grounds with Murphy, Alan Dempsey, Stephen O’Reilly, O’Brien, Niall Kennedy, Hannon, Dowling, Ryan and Downes all starting in that clash. Carmody also came on as a sub in that match.
LIMERICK U21H: Aaron Murphy (Hospital-Herbertstown); Alan Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh), Dan Morrissey (Ahane), Stephen O’Reilly (Ballybrown); Robert Egan (Kilmallock), Declan Hannon (Adare), Tom Ryan (South Liberties); Shane Kenny (Ballybrown), Seanie O’Brien (Patrickswell); Shane Dowling (Na Piarsaigh), Niall Kennedy (Granagh-Ballingarry), Mark Carmody (Patrickswell); Mikey Ryan (Murroe-Boher), Kevin Downes (Na Piarsaigh), Wille Griffin (Adare).
Checking the odds…Limerick are tipped to win this game at a price of 4/6 while Tipperary are valued at 6/4. The handicap betting has Limerick (-1) at 10/11.
Clues from the form guide…Tipperary staged a remarkable late revival to plunder the spoils against Cork in their opener last month with Sean Curran proving the matchwinner when he arrowed over a priceless late point. They timed their run to perfection to steal a 0-18 to 0-17 victory as they overcame a four-point deficit with six minutes left to move ahead for the only time in the game at the death. On a night when atrocious weather conditions proved a serious obstacle to free flowing hurling, Tipperary showed great resolve to stay in the hunt and sneak a late win.
Limerick enter this game cold without a game under their belts. But while they may not have played as an U21 collective, they have been keeping busy elsewhere. On the senior stage they have a plethora of players involved in the action with John Allen’s squad, who are motoring nicely and have an All-Ireland quarter-final date with Kilkenny looming large on Sunday week. The memories of last August’s stirring Munster U21 final success against Cork are still relevant for ten of tonight’s starting fifteen.
The game breakers are…Tipperary may lack in performers with senior experience but they still have talent to call upon. Stephen Maher, a player who has developed greatly on the back of a winning Fitzgibbon Cup campaign with UCC, is a corner-back of substance while Brian Stapleton is a figurehead of the team around the middle third. The attacking inspiration is provided by Killenaule’s John O’Dwyer, who struck 0-9 against Cork, and Sean Curran who had a great last quarter against Cork. A dry pitch tonight could suit inside snipers like Eanna Murray and Liam McGrath better.
But Limerick pack a considerable punch in their line-up as well. Alan Dempsey and Stephen O’Reilly are a pair of terrific corner-backs, Seanie O’Brien is a dynamic operator at midfield and Mark Carmody and Willie Griffin offer menace in attack. And their three leading lights – Declan Hannon, Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes – can dominate at this level. Hannon is at centre-back, a position he has experience in from colleges level, and can impose his authority on the game while Dowling from frees and Downes from play are major scoring threats.
Gazing into the crystal ball…The manner of that success over Cork will instill confidence into Tipperary’s challenge and Ken Hogan looks to have assembled a team that is balanced and well-organised. Traveling away from home was not a barrier to success against Cork but this is a more difficult test given the quality of the Limerick team. As a county Limerick are used to being cautious about underage prospects yet there is genuine hope about this current bunch. And given the senior sides success from last weekend, they can build on that and utilize the class in their line-up to triumph.
Join us on TheScore.ie tonight as we go minute-by-minute with all the action from the clash between Limerick and Tipperary