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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Limerick to book their place in All-Ireland final

Key forward Tom Morrissey can continue fine scoring form

Limerick's Kyle Hayes took a break from hurling over the winter to recuperate from injury
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Cork v Limerick
Sky Sports Arena & RTE2, 3.30pm Sunday

Munster rivals Cork and Limerick meet for the second time in 2018 at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.

The teams played out a draw in early June at Pairc Ui Chaoimh but they have taken different routes since. However, that was an exceptional game of hurling and more of the same is expected.

Cork are unbeaten in the championship with three wins and two draws and are now back-to-back Munster champions, having retained their title against Clare.

Clare will feel they let that game slip, but Cork’s second-half performance made the difference.

Clare led by eight points after 34 minutes but Cork’s response was faultless. They reduced the gap to four at half-time, were in front not long after the break and never looked back.

Cork struggled to cope with the Clare forwards in the first half, but had them figured out after the interval.

They dropped men deep and completely outplayed the Clare forwards while their workrate reduced the quality of the ball coming in.

It was left up to the Cork forwards to finish the job after that and that is an area they have excelled at in 2018. Patrick Horgan has been in flying form, along with Seamus Harnedy, and their first-half performance against Tipperary in the Munster Championship showed all that was good about this Cork side.

They created space inside for their forwards to roam and the quality of ball delivered was top class. They are likely to try to do something similar against an inexperienced Limerick full-back line, so Limerick’s half-backs will have to drop deep.

Limerick will likely be happy to do that as they have for much of their season with Diarmuid Byrnes, Declan Hannon and Dan Morrissey all dropping back along with their midfield and half-forwards, creating space in front of the Limerick full-forward line.

The middle third will be extremely congested and holds the key to this game.

After the draw with Cork, Limerick beat Waterford impressively and all looked rosy in Limerick before a no-show against Clare. They have recovered well since and their win over Kilkenny two weeks ago felt like a coming-of-age performance.

Limerick dominated the game but struggled to pull away in the tough conditions and missed some crucial goal chances. It looked as though Kilkenny had stolen it when Richie Hogan hit a 65th-minute goal but Limerick’s response was impressive.

Tom Morrissey hit two crucial points along with one each from subs Shane Dowling and Peter Casey to put Limerick back in front before Aaron Gillane knocked over a late free to top it off.

It sealed a first win for Limerick over the Cats since 1973 and showed a steel to their side that has been missing. 

With Cork looking to go one step further than last year, they’re undoubtedly the more experienced side but Limerick have shown they can do it on the big stage, with most of this side having won Under-21 All-Ireland titles.

These teams look extremely well matched but the strength of the Limerick bench might prove the difference. Limerick were down to 14 men for much of the drawn game following Aaron Gillane’s dismissal, and captain Declan Hannon was also forced off early.

With those two back, and a stronger bench as a result, Limerick may just hold the edge. Their bench proved the difference against Kilkenny with Casey and Dowling getting scores.

This Limerick side have reached this stage far quicker than many anticipated with most of their starters playing their first senior game in Croke Park. They face a Cork side who have been knocking on the door for a number of years.

Cork failed to take their chance against Waterford in last year’s semi-final so they’ll leave nothing to chance in their pursuit of a first All- Ireland final appearance since 2013.

John Kiely has expertly blended youth and experience in his Limerick line-up, with Nicky Quaid and Declan Hannon leading in key positions, and their skill and use of the ball sets them apart.

This promises to go right down to the wire but Limerick can book their place in a first All-Ireland Final in 11 years.

Tom Morrissey was the hero for Limerick in their quarter-final with Kilkenny and it’s worth keeping the Ahane man on your side.

Morrissey has hit 19 points from play in the championship (3.2pts per game), along with another five from frees, and he’s key to this Limerick forward line.

His ability to take scores from distance ensure he gets on a lot of ball and he will get on the scoresheet when he gets the chance.

Limerick to qualify
3pts Evens Sky Bet 
T Morrissey over 2.5 points
2pts Evens Paddy Power

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These teams look extremely well matched but the strength of the Limerick bench might prove the difference
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