Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Davy Fitzgerald

Davy Fitzgerald column: Limerick should prevail but Kilkenny have the means to cause an upset

LIMERICK’S presence in tomorrow’s All-Ireland final surprises nobody, but how many of us expected that Kilkenny would be facing off against them?

I, for one, certainly had my reservations at the outset and even as the Championship progressed.

But after their defeats to Galway and Wexford, it seems they concluded that the direct style wasn’t working for them and there’s more variety to their game now.

READ MORE: Liam Cahill steps down as Waterford manager fueling speculation he could take over Tipperary

They’re working it short out of defence and playing it long, when appropriate, to their full-forward line. That diversity to their play gives them a decent chance tomorrow.

Going through their team, Eoin Murphy has maintained his usual high standards in goal and Huw Lawlor continues to establish himself as one of the outstanding full-backs in the game. He’s been a huge plus for them after returning from injury.

Mikey Butler has been a revelation at corner-back while Richie Reid has matured nicely at centre-back, protecting his full-back line well, with Paddy Deegan steady alongside him.

Wherever they have lined out, Cian Kenny and Adrian Mullen have performed well, with the latter regaining his form of a few years ago.

TJ Reid's powers show no sign of erosion. His aerial ability, in particular his knack of getting in behind the defender to make a catch, is superb, his score-taking from a range of distances is top class and his distribution is incredible.

On the Limerick side, for me, Nickie Quaid is the best goalkeeper out there in terms of puckout selection and the quality of his distribution. He’s really smart, and he’s pulling off some fine saves too.

Barry Nash is one of the players of the year. The defensive side of his game has improved out of sight and we always knew that he had the ability to create scoring chances and take them. That’s become more prevalent this year.

Sean Finn has been the game’s leading corner-back over the past few years but he has struggled at times in this Championship.

He’s come back to himself of late though - his composure on the ball under fierce pressure against Galway was remarkable.

Diarmaid Byrnes has had arguably his best year yet, chipping in with vital scores from frees and play.

Declan Hannon has been his usual solid self at centre-back, from where he drops back to help his full-back line to great effect.

Their now well-established midfield pair of Darragh O’Donovan and William O’Donoghue have been fair without scaling the heights of previous years, however.

Similarly, Gearoid Hegarty, while having some good games, hasn’t quite hit top form - but there’s no doubting his quality and he could have a huge influence on tomorrow’s final, as he has in each of the last two years.

Kyle Hayes found his form when back in his old centre-forward position in the semi-final and I think it’s very important for Limerick that they stick with him in that position.

Prior to his latest injury, it was clear that Cian Lynch wasn’t up to full match fitness yet and an impact sub role was the best he could hope for tomorrow. That may even be beyond him now.

Aaron Gillane has been unplayable at times this year and is a huge threat to Kilkenny’s full-back line.

Seamus Flanagan faded after a bright start against Galway but, for the most part, has been really dangerous and relieved Gillane of much of the scoring burden.

One of the big questions for me is whether Graeme Mulcahy or Peter Casey will start.

Mulcahy will give you everything but Casey’s marksmanship makes him another potentially lethal weapon for Limerick. It just depends on whether he’s ready to start a game of this magnitude yet.

All told, I expect it to be a tight game and how much Kilkenny learned from Limerick’s semi-final - and how much of it they can put into practice will be significant to the outcome.

Galway created 27 chances in the first half, many of them from distance, and it was plain to see that the Limerick half-backs didn’t want to defend beyond their own 65.

If they leave Kilkenny players loose like that, there could be a price to pay as I expect the Kilkenny wing-backs to be in that middle area too and I don’t imagine they’ll let Hegarty and Tom Morrissey roam freely as other teams do.

That middle third is going to be like spaghetti junction and the winning of the game may well rest with the team that manoeuvres it best.

I don’t expect it to be particularly open but it will be really intense and the physical exchanges will be fierce. And I believe that Limerick will just about have the edge in enough areas to secure the three-in-a-row.


Eoin Murphy (Kilknny) v Nickie Quaid (Limerick)

Either man could have the ball in his hand up to 40 times tomorrow, which makes them the most influential players on the pitch in many respects.

It will be intriguing to see if Murphy goes long on top of the Limerick half-back line, or will he have licence to vary his restarts.

Quaid appears to have free rein with his puckout selection and a greater suite of options as, to me, Limerick seem less rigid than Kilkenny in this respect. That gives them the advantage here.

Aaron Gillane (Limerick) v Huw Lawlor (Kilkenny)

Of course, we won’t know until 3.30pm tomorrow who’s picking up whom and while it might be Mikey Butler that goes to Gillane, I think he’s more likely to be on Seamus Flanagan.

That would leave Lawlor picking up Gillane, which has the potential to be a game-defining battle.

Lawlor is very strong in the air and decent on the ground but the key to getting the better of Gillane is keeping the ball out of his hand.

If you look at the semi-final, he got most of his ball outside his left hand, which is his catching hand, running onto it and then striking off his right.

If Lawlor plays him from behind he’s going to be in serious trouble.

TJ Reid (Kilkenny) v Declan Hannon (Limerick)

TJ Reid may not start or finish the game at centre-forward, but it’s reasonable to suggest that he’ll spend a good share of the afternoon there.

And, when he does, will Declan Hannon mark him in the traditional sense or sit in the pocket, protecting his full-back line, as he usually does?

If it was my call, I’d be stationing Reid at No 11 and spraying loads of short ball to him around the 65 and see whether Hannon will stick or twist.

Gearoid Hegarty (Limerick) v Paddy Deegan (Kilkenny)

I’ve come across Paddy Deegan on numerous occasions over the years and he’s always been very sticky and tight. He’ll need those qualities tomorrow.

As always, Hegarty will drift back the field and look to take ball off his half-backs and midfielders but Deegan can’t allow him to do that because if he gets possession from there and starts driving forward, he will cause Kilkenny endless grief.

If Kilkenny learned anything from the semi-final, when Fintan Burke followed Hegarty everywhere and curbed his influence, then they’ll instruct Deegan to stick to him like a leech.


JUBILEE CLARE’S All-Ireland winning teams of the ‘90s belatedly get to wave to the Croke Park crowd tomorrow.

The pandemic meant that we weren’t afforded the opportunity two years ago but the 1995 and ‘97 panels, along with Wexford’s 1996 vintage, will all be feted this weekend.

It’s hard to believe that that much time has passed and it’ll be great to see some of the guys that I haven’t met for so long.

I’m very conscious of the fact that I’d have no All-Ireland medal if it wasn’t for them.

You’ll always have the few household names but the work ethic among the entire panel was immense and we couldn’t have done it without the group effort that was there.

We’ll be meeting in a hotel in Dublin this evening for dinner and drinks before moving on to Croke Park tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to the catch-up and fair play to the GAA for bringing the three teams together tomorrow.


A FEW problems with Hawk-Eye have presented themselves in recent weeks but I’d prefer to look at the bigger picture.

For the most part, it has been positive since it was introduced.

It has worked for and against me as a manager - the Brian Hogan incidents in the 2019 Wexford-Tipperary semi-final and then the Wexford-Kilkenny game last year where play was brought back for a point after we had scored a goal.

But I was always at peace that the right decision had been made and I think that, whatever problems there are, they should be sorted out and the technology restored.

Like anything, there are going to be blips every now and again but, the vast majority of the time it’s going to be the right call and I believe that the GAA should stick with it.


Get the latest sports headlines straight to your inbox by signing up for free email alerts

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.