Galway v Limerick
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final Preview
Croke Park Sunday 19th August @3:30pm
In what has largely been recognised as the best summer of Hurling since Cúchulainn was in short trousers, there is a hope and a growing expectation that we will be served up a classic on Sunday.
Both Limerick and Galway were involved in epic semi-finals encounters. In the aftermath of Galway’s drawn game with Clare the match was described by pundits as one of the best games in recent memory, only to be surpassed the next day by Limerick’s extra-time win over Munster champions Cork.
Galway are going for their first back to back titles since the 1987 & 1988, a team which featured legends of the game such as Joe Cooney, Sylvie Linnane, Pete Finnerty, Tony Keady, Michael ‘Hopper’ McGrath and Noel Lane. While Limerick have to look back to their 1973 win over Kilkenny for their last All-Ireland victory. That team featured former managers Éammon Cregan and Richie Bennis (who scored ten points in that match).
In the Treaty county the tension and hype have been building in the run-up to the counties first final appearance since their 2007 defeat to Kilkenny. They’ll certainly hope for a better start than in that match as early goals from Eddie Brennan and Henry Shefflin saw the treaty men trail by 2-03 to 0-00 after the opening ten minutes. However, the Limerick team of 2018 are made of tough stuff and even a start like that by Galway mightn’t be enough to kill them off. Cork will testify to that, as they looked home and hosed, leading by six points after 63minutes of the semi-final only for Limerick to hit a flurry of late points which took the game to extra time.
Indeed Galway themselves were on the receiving end of a Limerick comeback earlier this year in their division 1B clash in Salthill back in March. The tribesmen led by eight points at the break only for Limerick to reel them back in and win by two. Galway have made a habit of building leads this summer, but on occasions, such as in the Leinster final replay and both semi-final against Clare they have been outscored by the opposition in the second halves of matches. Galway can ill afford to drift out of the game on Sunday as Limerick are equipped with plenty of scoring forwards and plenty of strength off the bench.
Limerick have impressed in their last two wins over Cork and Kilkenny and will be quietly confident of upsetting the current All-Ireland champions in the final. However, they will be mindful of letting the hype within the county and an expectation of a big performance getting to them. In the Munster round-robin phase earlier this summer, after impressive wins over Tipperary and Waterford as well as a draw against Cork despite playing most of the game with 14 men, Limerick travelled to Cusack Park in Ennis and were hot favourites. However, they never really got going that day and were completely outperformed by a hungrier Clare side.
That game was Limerick’s third in three weekends and would partly explain the sub-par performance, they will be confident going into Sunday’s final after three weeks preparation. While Galway’s replay win over Clare in the other semi-final ate into the Tribesmen’s preparation time. The current champions haven’t been as impressive so far this year as they perhaps were on their march to last years crown. However, they still possess players capable of lighting up Croke Park on the biggest of occasions. This experience could be crucial to seeing Galway over the line if the game is as tight as expected.
There is no fresh injury news from either camp. Galway’s Gearóid McInerney who missed their semi-final win over Clare has been named to start, as has John Hanbury, who went over on his ankle late in the Clare replay. However, there will be a change on the Tribesmen’s bench as Brain Concannon, who started Galway’s first two Leinster championship round-robin matches, picked up a two-week suspension due to a straight red card in last Wednesday’s U21 semi-final defeat to Tipperary and will be ineligible to play on Sunday.
Limerick have announced the same starting 15 who began their semi-final against Cork. Super sub Shane Dowling will once again start from the bench. Long-term absentee Paul Browne is named on the extended panel of 37 named on Friday night by manager John Kiely.
Galway are 4/7 to retain their All-Ireland title, while Limerick are 7/4 to pick up their first title in 45 years. In a summer of tight games the draw will interest many punters and it’s available at 12/1. The Handicap market is offering Galway -2/Limerick +2