It must be strange when your home is also a home for world boxing but that’s become the norm for the sport’s renowned promoter, Eddie Hearn, over the last four months. As he draws up plans for boxing domination, Hearn does more than just make all of his key decisions at home in ‘The Matchroom HQ’ in Essex; he also carries them out there.
With a hotel down the road, Hearn has created his own perfect bubble to stage big fights. Everything is on site; his salubrious property boasts a gym, leisure complex and swimming pool, which Hearn’s stable of fighters can use.
Boxers are regularly seen running in the nearby forest, or working out with the pads in the lush expansive garden.
I often wonder what Hearn would make of hurling, and the opportunity it could present to a guy like him?
The entertainment value is guaranteed. If Hearn can sell a nothing fight between some washed-up fella with a belt that looks like it was bought in a €2 shop, against a burly eastern European in the mould of Paul Gascoigne’s old mate, Jimmy Five-Bellies, what could he do with an All-Ireland semi-final? Eddie has such a neck that he’d probably even try and stage the game in his 15-acre garden.
He wouldn’t have to do much selling but I’d love to see how Hearn would pitch Galway-Limerick.
Galway-Tipperary has proven itself to be the ultimate rivalry in recent years but, make no mistake about it, tomorrow’s clash has all the credentials of an Anthony Joshua-Tyson Fury showdown. Two huge heavyweights going right at it, with nobody prepared to take a backward step.
It doesn’t need any promotion or hard selling because this is absolute box-office stuff.
It also has a big rematch feel about it because Galway have been looking for another crack at Limerick since the 2018 All-Ireland final. In boxing parlance though, one of the key concerns for Galway is that Limerick might now be packing a bigger punch.
If Galway are carrying hurt into this game, so are Limerick, especially after the way in which they fell at this hurdle to Kilkenny last year.
Getting back to this stage was Limerick’s focus almost immediately after that defeat.
Having to wait 16 months has only whetted their appetite, and strengthened their punching power.
Limerick have probably heard the background noise too over the last few days, which have reached my ears:
Players and management do everything on weeks like this to insulate themselves from that kind of talk but some poisoned arrows can breach the outside castle walls.
Emotion drives so much of the energy in these big matches but both sides will have been cold and calculated in their approach to this contest.
Both will have gone into overdrive in their analysis of each other but Galway will have spread that net wider again to re-examine their league meeting in February when Limerick took them to the cleaners.
Galway’s analytical starting point this week will still have been on themselves and how well they managed the game in the second half against Tipp.
You could argue that the sending off of Cathal Barrett enabled them to make that happen easier but they still made some big decisions to turn the game in their favour.
That process began at half-time. I’m not sure if he was injured but, if he wasn’t, the half-time substitution of David Burke was Codyesque in its ruthlessness. Noel McGrath was brilliant in the first half and bringing on Adrian Tuohy for Burke negated Noel’s influence.
Maybe management felt Tuohy’s athleticism was more suited to shutting Noel down, while they were also able to switch Pádraic Mannion into the sweeper role. Whatever the method, or reason, it worked.
It will be interesting to see if Galway go with the sweeper again. Limerick say they don’t play with a sweeper but Declan Hannon is a sweeper in all but name. Hannon won’t want to be chasing Cathal Mannion out around midfield but he’s probably been sitting deeper again considering Limerick have lost two-thirds of their starting full-back line.
It’s hard to know if Richie English is back fully fit at this stage after rupturing his cruciate back in February. He was on the squad of 26 for the Munster final and will have come on from the two weeks of training.
Given the strength of their bench, and how ferocious the battle must be to get a starting jersey, those internal games are probably as hard as any Championship match.
If English is fit, that might give Limerick a licence to play him at full-back, which would release Dan Morrissey to the wing, and shove Kyle Hayes back up to the half-forward line. Then again, maybe Limerick are just happy with Kyle’s ‘wall like’ presence at No. 7.
And that wall looks even more impenetrable again with Will O’Donoghue operating as a kind of fourth half-back.
Galway won an epic last week against Tipp but how much will that have taken out of them?
Galway found a way against Tipp but, is surviving, and hoping for a late kick again against Limerick going to be enough?
Both squads have plenty of options off the bench but Limerick’s subs have been far more productive to date, especially their substitute forwards. You’d also wonder will John Kiely elect to throw something different at Galway this time around?
Daithí Burke looks tailormade for Gillane. Dathí has the power and the athleticism to deal with Gillane’s threat so could Kiely throw Seamie Flanagan in on Dathí?
If Gillane is matched up with Daithí, Limerick’s forwards rotate and move so much, and play so much high-percentage possession into their attack, that I can’t see them raining too much high ball down on top of Gillane.
On the other hand, you’d be foolish to underestimate Gillane’s aerial ability too.
Kilkenny asked big questions of the Galway full-back line with how they mixed up their personnel and Limerick will probably do something similar here.
On the other hand, Galway will also be targeting the Limerick full-back line. Conor Whelan got some excellent scores when these sides met in February and if he could bag a couple of goals, then all bets are off.
Galway will need goals because it’s unlikely any team will out-point them.
Limerick are entitled to be favourites but they know this won’t be easy.
As in any heavyweight clash, Limerick are fully aware too that the heavyweight in the other corner always has a couple of big punches in the locker, which Galway certainly have.
This promises to be some contest, but I just think Limerick will be able to repel enough of Galway’s jabs, and land enough of their own haymakers on Galway’s chin to get the result.