Limerick v Tipperary: Limerick (-2) – 6/4
It would be a fair criticism to say this year’s Munster Championship has failed to live up to the standard it set itself last season – even if that mark is probably impossible to get to again.
However, at least we’ve got ourselves a Wilder v Fury-sized final, as heavyweights Limerick and Tipperary throw down at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. A perfect run of four wins from four in the round-robin series has seen The Premier County into this final and they look to be completely rehabilitated after last year’s early exit, thanks to the return of manager Liam Sheedy.
Things were a little more mixed for John Kiely’s Limerick as comprehensive wins over Waterford and Clare helped them into this decider. The All-Ireland and National League champions were defeated by Cork, but they won’t read much into their second loss to Tipperary as that tie was little more than a shadowboxing exercise.
Kiely chose to rotate his squad that day, with All-Ireland Championship progression virtually assured and even went as far as leaving Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch on the bench. Tipperary, meanwhile, chose to keep on the winning path and named their strongest starting XV – but it came at a huge cost.
Star forward Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher suffered the dreaded cruciate ligament injury, ending his season as a result. His loss will be keenly felt that’s for sure. Tipperary are also in a race against time to get corner back Cathal Barrett back for Sunday’s game after a hamstring issue he picked up in that game with Limerick as well.
The fact that Tipperary have to travel to the Treaty City, because of a home and away arrangement, can’t be ignored either. Limerick have won three of their last four Championship meetings with Tipperary there, so it’s certainly a happy hunting ground in that regard.
Tipp injuries, home advantage and a fresher squad – all the omens seem to point to a Limerick victory and we reckon they’ll do it with at least three points to spare.
Kilkenny v Wexford: Kilkenny (-3) – 11/10
In stark contrast to their Munster counterparts, if you wanted drama in the Hurling Championship this season then Leinster was where you found it.
An amazing final Saturday two weeks ago, in which Wexford and Kilkenny drew to seal their place in this final, saw Galway shockingly dumped out and Dublin survive despite the fact that all four teams sat on five points.
The strange combination of results led to happy scenes in Wexford Park as both Brian Cody and Davy Fitzgerald realised that their respective sides had somehow made it to the Leinster decider. But, you can expect that temporary truce to go out the window on Sunday.
If you are looking for just one word to describe what we are going to see in Croke Park – ‘physical’ would cover it accurately. Neither of these sides mind a tackle and we all know a packed defence will always be the order of the day for Davy Fitz.
Depending on how you see it, Wexford are here as one of only two undefeated teams in the Championship – or they lucked their way into this final, with three draws and a single victory over minnows Carlow.
Isn’t perspective a funny thing?
However, The Cats have been flying under the radar all season and Wexford seemed to struggle to close down the wide-open spaces of Croke Park in last year’s Leinster final. We’re tipping a traditional win for Kilkenny, with a bit to spare in this one here.
* All odds correct at time of posting.