Sunday, 1 November 2020, 13.00
This game will tell more about who will likely win the All-Ireland than any other. Limerick gave Tipperary a trimming in the Munster final last year but Tipp will have gained considerable confidence from last year's senior and under-21 All-Ireland wins.
The Tipperary management have an interesting approach to team selection which includes a constant evolution of the side, apparently not particularly valuing settling the team. It worked well last year and developed the squad very nicely. For this game, Michael Breen, John O'Dwyer and Dan McCormack start on the bench and represent very nice and varied options, depending on what the management wish to try and improve or stimulate. Breen is a very good player: super athletic, fast, strong, capable of scoring a handful of points, as well as playing comfortable in midfield or the half-forward line, and one that I'd start. Coming off the bench, he represents a real menace for Limerick and a strong card to have in the pocket. He can be a touch inconsistent, and that's probably what has cost him his starting jersey. John O'Dwyer offers a more conventional scoring threat off the bench, and Dan McCormack is an intelligent player who can be introduced to wrap up an effective half-back.
Image: Action for the 2019 Munster final.
Limerick make a tweak by starting Darragh O’Donovan in place of Paddy O'Loughlin. If I was from Limerick, I'd be concerned that the left side of the defence -- in Barry Nash and O’Donovan -- are not regular starters, especially in those positions, and Tipperary will surely probe that wing. This Tipperary forward line has players who can rack up scores and, if there's a weak link in the opposition, these are the prefect players to apply the pressure test.
Dan Morrissey had nothing to worry about at full-back against Clare but Seamus Callinan is a consistent high-scorer who revels in attacking, and will represent a more consistent, conventional danger at full-forward, with venomous support from the lethal John McGrath. McGrath, always cool and sensible, seems to cruise around in third gear, and he's an inside forward who could put a knife in Limerick if their full-back line does prove to be less than fully assured. Otherwise, Limerick line up with familiarity, and I anticipate that we'll get what we always get: organisation, intelligent attacking from the half-backs and midfielders, a forceful half-forward line, and an inside line who are a constant threat.
Image: Action for the 2019 Munster final.
On Limerick's half forward line, probably the most physically strong and attritional in the game, all the while well able to score, it'll be fascinating to see them clash with the three Mahers. Tipperary's half-back line is dense in classic, experienced, skillful hurlers who play with intelligence. While the modern game doesn't so much come down to battles of this player versus that player, or this line against that (due to alternative formations and rotating positions), this is one instance where we will probably see those players do battle for the whole game, and it'll be fascinating. If I had to bet, I'd favour the Limerick lads to shade it, but that's gambling. Padraic Maher and Gearóid Hegarty should be a heavyweight duel. Hegarty is one of the most effective half-forwards in the game; languid and adaptable, limiting his impact on the wing is important to breaking down Limerick.
Prediction: I fancy Limerick to get the win but there is the issue of two-thirds of their usual full-back line being absent. If Tipperary are to win, they'll have to effectively probe that. That said, Limerick are a primed machine and the dismantling of Clare was a useful chance for them to stretch their legs, which may mean they'll start a bit quicker than Tipp. Limerick by four points.
Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Sean Finn, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Darragh O’Donovan; Cian Lynch, William O’Donoghue; Gearóid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, Tom Morrissey; Graeme Mulcahy, Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey.
Tipperary: Brian Hogan; Cathal Barrett, Barry Heffernan, Sean O'Brien; Ronan Maher, Brendan Maher, Padraic Maher; Noel McGrath, Alan Flynn; Mark Kehoe, Jason Forde, Niall O'Meara; John McGrath, Seamus Callanan, Jake Morris.