Return Aaron Gillane and Dan Morrissey to the Limerick starting team — that’s the verdict of former Limerick hurler Stephen McDonagh ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Gillane was a surprise omission from the Limerick team for last month’s Munster final, the first time since the county’s 2018 Munster round-robin game against Clare that he had failed to make the first 15 for a championship fixture.
Two-time All Star winners Gillane and Morrissey exerted considerable influence when introduced on the half-hour mark of Limerick’s come-from-behind Munster final win, with McDonagh expecting both players to be promoted back to the starting team for Saturday’s semi-final against Waterford.
“I would start him,” replied McDonagh when asked if Limerick would be better served by returning Gillane to the inside-forward line from the off, or holding him in reserve once again.
“I would expect Gillane and Dan Morrissey to start, that’s based on their performances the last day when they were introduced. They had a massive impact on the game, and were very influential when they came on.
“Going down to the Munster final, we were saying, look at the help Gillane and Dan Morrissey would be, if you needed them.
“If you flip that to this weekend, look at the help Richie English and Graeme Mulcahy would be coming off the bench. They could have equally as big an impact on Saturday as the lads did in the Munster final, if they don’t start and Gillane and Morrissey do.”
McDonagh believes the decision to leave Gillane off the starting team for the Munster final had the desired effect, given the Patrickswell man had “a bee in his bonnet” when introduced.
During the league and in the Cork semi-final, he hadn’t been firing by comparison with other years. He came on then against Tipperary and he was very, very good.
The former corner-back, who played in the 1994 and ’96 All-Ireland finals, is hopeful that Limerick’s freshness will trump Waterford momentum on Saturday.
He reckons a key message at Limerick training during the past three weeks would have been that what happened in 2019 — Limerick were “caught cold” by Kilkenny at the All-Ireland semi-final stage — can’t happen again.
“They certainly got caught in 2019, no question about it. They were caught cold for 70 minutes. I would be thinking that was a focal point for the last three weeks for Limerick, that what happened in 2019 can’t happen this time.
“I’d be happy to be in Limerick’s position going into this game. Limerick have had a couple of uninterrupted weeks to train hard, whereas Waterford are coming in here after three hard games in a row. They are going to have to play out of their skins for the fourth weekend in succession. That’s a big ask.
This will be a fierce battle. Waterford are a better team from last year and are coming with an awful lot of momentum, but I wouldn’t deviate from Limerick.
“I think we have the best team and the best panel in the country. Whether that is going to be good enough to win the All-Ireland in 2021, I don’t know, but I believe we have the best team and panel. It is there for us, but you still have to go and do it.”