FOUR DAYS OUT from the biggest hurling game of the year at the unseasonal time of mid December to settle the destination of this year’s All-Ireland title.
Managers John Kiely and Liam Cahill have a lot of the hard work done at this stage, the former having collected league and Munster honours, the latter having successfully rebounded from a provincial final loss.
But what are the issues the Limerick and Waterford bosses are mulling over before Sunday’s decider in Croke Park?
Who is on the treatment table?
Limerick have the most pressing issues in this sector. Aaron Gillane was described as ’50-50′ last week after sustaining a heavy blow towards the end of the game against Galway. He was hospitalised overnight as a precaution before being released and is also nursing a finger injury of late.
Click Here: qld maroons shirt
His absence would be keenly felt by Limerick with David Dempsey another injury concern after coming on in the Munster final and not being fit enough to make the squad for the All-Ireland semi-final. Cruciate victim Mike Casey is their big player unavailable for this championship.
For Waterford’s part, Shane Fives went off with a quad injury in the 60th minute of the Munster final and has not been part of the 26-man squad since. But Cahill reported last week that the defender is back fit and ‘training well’. The two long-term absentees in Cahill’s ranks are Pauric Mahony and Darragh Fives through injury.
Any changes likely to the starting fifteen?
18 different Limerick players have started games with 13 in from the off for all four of their championship matches to date. There is a settled look to the team with Gillane’s fitness to determine whether there is an enforced change.
There could be another alteration to their attack with Peter Casey omitted the last day for Seamus Flanagan but then Casey replaced Graeme Mulcahy and made a real impression in picking off a couple of points.
The make up of Limerick’s full-forward line will be interesting while Darragh O’Donovan came in to start the last day. Will he retain his place or will Limerick shift Cian Lynch back to midfield before settling on their centre-forward?
Waterford’s starting fifteen has undergone little change. 14 players have began all of their games with the only alteration seeing Shane Fives make way due to injury after the Munster final and Ian Kenny has started since.
Their substitutes made a real impression against Kilkenny though, in particular Neil Montgomery and Darragh Lyons who replaced Jake Dillon and Kieran Bennett respectively. Montgomery has excelled off the bench recently while the experienced Conor Gleeson is now another option since recovering from injury after coming on in the last two games.
of the team
Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.
Become a Member
Who will make the bench for match day?
Finalising the full list of players who can tog out on the day is an exercise fraught with tension for managers in All-Ireland finals. Both Kiely and Cahill were vocal in expressing their displeasure that all panel members could not attend inter-county games up to this point. The lifting of that restriction will have been welcomed for this game rather than having difficult conversations with players.
While the full squads can now attend, the question turns to who will be the 11 substitutes named? Limerick have used 22 players to date this season with Pat Ryan, Jerome Boylan, Dempsey and Adrian Breen the quartet who have not started but featured as subs.
For the victory over Galway, they had Casey and Dempsey out injured with eight other players who were not on the matchday panel prevented from travelling:
- Jerome Boylan (Na Piarsaigh)
- Jason Gillane (Patrickswell)
- Josh Considine (Patrickswell)
- Darren O’Connell (Kildimo-Pallaskenry)
- Brian Ryan (South Liberties)
- Tom Condon (Knockaderry)
- Mark Quinlan (Garryspillane)
- Brian O’Grady (Kilteely-Dromkeen)
As mentioned Boylan has played while O’Grady was on the bench against Clare in the Munster quarter-final.
Waterford have used 24 players to date in championship, Iarlaith Daly was the latest to get gametime when introduced in that success over Kilkenny.
Their eight fit players – excluding Darragh Fives and Pauric Mahony – from their squad who could not travel to the Kilkenny game were:
- Ciaran Kirwan (Kill)
- Shane Fives (Tourin)
- Shane Ryan (Fourmilewater)
- Tom Barron (Fourmilewater)
- Shaun O’Brien (De La Salle)
- Kieran Power (Dungarvan)
- Conor Sheehan (Ballygunner)
- Darragh Lynch (Passage)
Kirwan came on as a sub against Clare while Ryan and Power were on the bench for the opener against Cork.
Both Limerick and Waterford are set to announce starting sides later in the week.
Subscribe to The42′s new member-led GAA Championship show with Marc Ó Sé and Shane Dowling.