First of all, it is surprising to hear Wexford giving out about where the game is going to be played.
It’s absolute rubbish to be going on with that. They are in an All-Ireland quarter-final and you should be delighted that you are there. Thurles is one of the best venues in the country and Wexford will bring a good crowd. If they played in Timbuktu they should be happy to go there.
They have come on so well, beating All-Ireland champions Clare and Waterford in the last month, but they are going to meet a team tomorrow that is as strong as them, in physical terms.
Wexford seem to have gone back to the old, traditional Wexford way. They have powerful players all over the field, but Limerick will match that power. I know there are concerns about his fitness, but Keith Rossiter is absolutely crucial for Wexford. He is the most experienced defender they have and tidied everything up for them the last day. It is crucial that he takes the field because there are a lot of young heads in that backline.
The best match-up of the day is going to be between Lee Chin and James Ryan in the middle of the field. That will be a physical contest between two imposing fellas and it could be crucial. Another key area is the Wexford full-back line. It is lacking a little bit of pace and forwards like Graeme Mulcahy and Kevin Downes could make hay if given the chance. Wexford will have to get their match-ups right.
Some of Limerick’s big players didn’t play well against Cork in the Munster final. They are proud hurlers and they will want to come out fighting and Limerick are far more advanced than Wexford at this stage. They won Munster last year and were in the final again. The biggest thing for them the last day is that they didn’t have one shot on goal. Cork keeper Anthony Nash didn’t have a save to make. That will be a concern for Limerick. They have to get faster ball into their inside forward line.
Another thing about Limerick is that they are absolutely dependant on the 15 who take the field. They haven’t got a big panel. Last year they used Shane Dowling and Kevin Downes off the bench. They haven’t that luxury this year. Limerick love Thurles, though. That’s a real plus for them. They beat Tipperary there already this year and this is a great match-up for them. I know guys like TJ Ryan and Davy Clarke have bad memories of Wexford in 1996. I’m sure TJ will be driving it home that you don’t take Wexford lightly, but I feel Limerick will take it.
As for the second game, I’ve been asking myself: ‘where are Dublin, really?’ Are they going to stand up tomorrow? They didn’t in the Leinster final and it must have been fierce disappointing for Anthony Daly. They just completely collapsed. Time is shoving on for a lot of these Dublin fellas and it’s a big year for Anthony as well. This is his sixth year there and I think Dublin will come out and give him a big performance, even though they haven’t played all that well in Thurles in the championship before.
This is a big game for Eamon O’Shea as well. Of the four sides in Thurles tomorrow the one under the most pressure is the home team. It’s squeaky bum time in Tipperary! I know they beat Offaly and Galway, but there is still the question over them: Can they deliver? There will be massive expectation on them and the last time they really had that same level of pressure in Thurles, against Limerick, they didn’t deliver.
They need to put themselves in line as real contenders for the All-Ireland. We all know the good players they have, but they still have problems in their backs. Not individually, but as a unit. They are not working in unison at all. All over the field that seems to happen. They got it reasonably right against Galway, although Galway made it easy for them, and they need to get the thing right from the word go. The big thing about Tipperary is their forwards. If they get any leeway at all they can beat you in ten minutes.
I think Tipperary will come through. The loser of this game could see the manager walking. Maybe I’m wrong, but I would feel that they wouldn’t be able to get any more out of their team. I see Tipperary doing it. I think they have the better players and the crowd will respond to them in Thurles. They need to perform in front of their own people.
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