Tipperary legend Nicky English says it’s possible Limerick could ‘fly through’ the entire championship but he will reserve judgement until he sees if they’ve got the energy for a successful All-Ireland defence.
The man who won All-Irelands, both as a player and manager with Tipperary said that if Limerick can maintain their league form, they will almost certainly retain the MacCarthy Cup.
And the Sky Sports hurling analyst claimed that if they were going for three-in-a-row, having already proven they could retain an All-Ireland, then they’d be ‘hands down to win it’ this year.
But his big concern is that John Kiely’s side will simply run out of energy around July or August and stop improving as their championship, which begins at home to Cork this weekend, builds to a climax.
“It’s an energy issue,” said English.
It’s possible that they’ll just fly through it, they’re young. It’s not as long now either, the season, but it’s still a long time. Their league final was on March 31. They were in good form. That form would arguably win the All-Ireland for Limerick.
“It’s a question of whether they’ll stay there at that pitch, go that way (up) or go that way (down). If they go that way (up), they’ll definitely win it, if they improve. But if they go backwards, we’ll have to see.”
English said a lack of energy may have cost Galway last year when they failed to retain the All-Ireland they won in 2017 and admitted it was a problem for his own Tipperary team in 2002 when they relinquished the MacCarthy Cup after their 2001 breakthrough.
“Limerick have the best panel, they confirmed that they were very good last year but still, they only barely scraped out of the quarter-final against Kilkenny, the semi-final against Cork you could say they were lucky to survive that and you could see they gave Galway a chance in the final,” continued English.
“They probably have improved but somewhere along the line you’re getting a little bit worried that, when you win for the first time in 45 years, there’s a lot that goes with winning the All-Ireland and there’s a lot of bringing the cup to schools and all that kind of stuff that ultimately dissipates some energy. Invariably, you don’t find that energy dissipated until the July/August period.
“I remember from my own experience in 2002 with Tipperary, Tipperary were excellent in May/June, they were going excellent, beat Limerick and Clare, subsequently lost the Munster final but they were still going okay. But they came back a little bit then and there was always a lack of energy there, even in the All-Ireland semi-final you could sense it.
“Take Galway last year, they hadn’t won it for a long time, you could argue that Galway weren’t improving at the finish last year.
“They got the draws against Kilkenny and Clare which didn’t help their cause. That can happen because all the teams are so closely aligned and there’s a finite amount of energy. They ran out of it, Galway, they weren’t improving so I think that’s the danger for Limerick.
My experience of the third level colleges hurling over the last number of years is that Limerick, at their peer group age, are far superior to any other team, far superior, and it’s a question of how they can ultimately deal with the energy. That’s the question with retaining the All-Ireland. For me, if they were going for three-in-a-row, they’d be hands down to win it.
Limerick’s opponents, Cork, were beaten by English’s native Tipp last weekend. English said Tipp clearly retain the talent to win big games but suggested their challenge will be to retain that sort of form for an entire summer.
“I think, from an age-profile perspective, they have more behind them than in front of them, some of the players, but at the same time it’s only two years ago since they were doing really well in Croke Park,” said English. “I think they would see themselves as capable.”