We canvass hurlers across the province for their take on this Sunday’s All-Ireland final showdown between Limerick and Kilkenny.
Keelan Molloy (Antrim)
YOU certainly couldn’t argue that isn’t the two best teams in the country going head-to-head again this year.
Limerick and Kilkenny were All-Ireland finalists last year, they’re back again and they’ve both won their provincial titles back again this year as well so you couldn’t argue that it’s not the two best teams in the country going at it.
I was talking to a few of my friends the other day about it and we were saying that Kilkenny are going to have to try and shut down Aaron Gillane if they are going to have any chance at all of winning the game.
But I think the role with Richie Reid plays in the defence, Cian Lynch could have a really big influence on the game. Limerick will try and drop long balls into the forward line, and Richie will try drop back to cover so I think Cian Lynch will have a big say in it.
I’m going to have to say that I see Limerick winning it, I really couldn’t go against them the way they’re playing at the minute and over the last couple of years.
It’s going to take a brilliant team to eventually beat them but of course if anybody is going to actually beat them then it’s going to be Kilkenny but if I had any money to put on it I’d definitely be putting it on Limerick.
Rory Porteous (Fermanagh)
I THINK with the match-ups for the semi-finals being the same as last year, we were hoping to see a different outcome and that the teams that lost would have learned something, but Kilkenny and Limerick are just a level above.
The consistency that those two teams hav is remarakble. Both players know how to get the job done. It’s a skill winning a semi-final and both those teams have it.
Last year Eoin Cody for Kilkenny, e was matched up with Sean Finn but with Finn missing, he’ll definitely be looking to try and take advantage and maybe get a few more opportunities than he got in last year’s final.
The way he’s been playing this year, if he does have a good final then he’ll probably go on to win Hurler of the Year as well. I’d say he could lead the fight for Kilkenny in the final.
But it’s hard to look past Limerick, purely because they’ve been there and done it so often and every time that they are questioned, they end up answering those questions and then some. They make teams that are hurling brilliantly look really ordinary.
I would say that it’s hard to look past Limerick. They’re like a machine. I think the only chance that Kilkenny have is if they can really take advantage of the players that Limerick have missing and maybe aren’t performing to the same level.
They’ve been able to get away without Declan Hannon now for a couple of games, Sean Finn is obviously missing too and then Cian Lynch hasn’t really been shooting the lights out the way he’s capable of doing.
So, if Kilkenny can find a chink in the armour that will turn the tide, they might have a chance but it’s hard to look past Limerick to be honest.
Diarmaid Carney (Cavan)
I WOULD say the two best teams are in the final. It’s been a competitive championship throughout with a few heavyweights knocked out early on, so I think it’s fitting enough that possibly one of the best teams to ever play the game are coming up against one of the better teams of the noughties. It’s going to be a very interesting game and a really tough one to call. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of talk in the media and the toing and froing about match-ups and that, so it’ll be interesting to see now how it plays out on Sunday.
It’s no surprise that everyone is going to be talking about Aaron Gillane, I think he could be a game-changer. Obviously, Kilkenny will be looking to their own big hitters like Adrian Mullen, Mickey Butler in the backline, but Gillane is just too much of a top class forward.
He’s in too hot of form that I’d imagine the whiteboards in Kilkenny’s training camp will be focusing on how to control Aaron Gillane. He’s a great free-taker and if he doesn’t score from play, Limerick will obviously be minus that bit of class but he’s the man to look out for.
I would have questioned in recent years the period of transition that Kilkenny are going through but after the Leinster final I feel they have that bit of bite to them still, to fight to the bitter end.
Obviously, it was a close final last year, so I think it’s going to be the same this year. I’m going to go against the grain and I’m going to tip Kilkenny just to have that wee bit more bite. I shouldn’t be questioning the hunger of Limerick but I’m going to go for a Kilkenny win.
Niall Garland (Monaghan)
LIMERICK will be favourites because they’re never beaten and in order to beat them, I think you’re going to have to play for 70 full minutes. There’s probably a lot of talk of a shootout between (Aaron) Gillane and (Eoin) Cody so whoever wins that battle could turn out to be key to the overall outcome.
But at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the match winner on either side came from someone maybe under the radar a bit. I think Limerick have more match winners in the arsenal than maybe Kilkenny do, but Kilkenny are Kilkenny.
They’re not going to stop, and I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if they do it. I’d probably slightly fancy Limerick but if Kilkenny came out on top, it wouldn’t surprise anyone.
There’s a lot of talk about that Limerick half-back line and more often or not, all three of them nearly win their individual battles so it’ll be interesting to see can Kilkenny even win one of them.
If Declan Hannon is playing and he’s not fully fit, who’s going to go out on him and target him? So, it’ll be interesting to see what road they go down. Mickey Butler kept Tony Kelly quiet the last day so if he picks up Gillane and keeps him to even two or three points, that itself could be a match winner.
It’s all set up; no team has done five in-a-row, and I know Limerick are only going for four and Kilkenny were the last team to do that and no better team to stop someone matching what they did and nearly trying to put to bed what was the greatest team.
You can never say that Kilkenny are beaten but you have to play for 70 minutes. Limerick may not play well for 70 minutes but they’ll always be in the game whereas if the opposition tune out, Limerick could blow you away. When they get a purple patch, they’re almost impossible to stop and I can’t see past Limerick.
Brian MacIntyre (Donegal)
IT’S the same as last year and Limerick are obviously going in as favourites, but I have a fancy for Kilkenny this year.
I’m not sure why but there’s something about them getting to the finalagain and Limerick have been so consistent the whole time, but I think Kilkenny are coming good at the right time.
Especially with the likes of TJ Reid and Richie Hogan off the bench, I’d like to see them win one more maybe, so I’d be edging towards them.
Eoin Cody is the obvious standout player at the minute for Kilkenny, he’s flying it, and I think it’s going to come down to Aaron Gillane and whoever marks him and whoever comes out on top of that is the big one.
Whether it’s Mickey Butler or someone of the same size and physique, they could go with Huw Lawlor or Tommy Walsh maybe but whoever comes out on top of that match up will win the game.
But there’s usually different men that step up as well and Limerick have so much quality in Gearoid Hegarty and Cian Lynch and any of them lads can just produce it on All-Ireland final day and there’s nearly too many fires to put out for Kilkenny, that they need to nearly focus on themselves.
I just have a fancy for Kilkenny for whatever reason, there’s not much logic behind it. Limerick have been so consistent and are favourites for a reason but Kilkenny have plenty of experience themselves.
Even lads coming off the bench likes Walter Walsh, Padraic Walsh, Richie Hogan, (Cillian) Buckley, they have loads of experience and it’s not going to overwhelm them playing in the All-Ireland final. They might have that wee edge so that’s maybe why I’m tipping them.