Jamesie OConnor column: Limerick have Tipperarys number, Kilkenny and Dublin set for Leinster duel

Even when Limerick and Tipperary met in this year’s National League, there was a sense that the Premier were really up for it.

They were conscious that the Treaty have dominated the rivalry in recent years. It finished in a draw, but it was clear to me that Tipp put far more into that match than Limerick.

I feel the current All-Ireland champions have a higher bar, and have more about them than Tipperary at this moment.

I didn’t see enough from Liam Sheedy’s charges in their win over Clare to change my opinion.

They showed all their experience to see off the Banner. If you give John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, Jason Forde and Noel McGrath time and space, they will turn that into a game-winning tally.

But Limerick have denied Tipp such luxuries in their meetings in recent years. In last year’s Munster semi-final, Seamus Callanan was starved of possession.

Of course, Sheedy, Eamon O’Shea and Tommy Dunne will have spent the last six months trying to figure out a way to beat Limerick. But that’s easier said than done.

The positives from a Tipp perspective are that Limerick were not quite where they need to be in their win over Cork.

Tom Morrissey, Gearoid Hegarty, Aaron Gillane and Seamus Flanagan were all taken off.

But that’s a sign of a good team. They were below par, but still found a way to get the job done. And they did so with eight points to spare.

For me, if Limerick are at their best, they win this game. And they win it by five or six points.

Cats’ attack beginning to purr

I think we are finally beginning to see a Kilkenny attack that is no longer reliant on TJ Reid.

Walter Walsh looks to have his mojo back. He seems to have found the hunger and appetite once more. You could see his reaction after scoring his goal against Wexford. 1-2 off the bench was a massive contribution in the context of that match.

He seems to have that lust for battle, and has found that appetite and desire.

Sometimes when you have been around a while in intercounty hurling, you can be struggling for form or maybe with injury, and you can’t buy a score. Your love for the game might be waning. If anything, you’re trying too hard.

But if he was struggling with those issues, he has certainly put them in the rear-view mirror. He brings a physical presence in the Kilkenny forward line, and that’s a huge plus for Brian Cody.

Eoin Cody is another who has really stepped up this year, taking his game to another level in 2021.

He hit the Yellowbellies for 1-5 from play, and that’s not to mention the fouls he drew.

Martin Keoghan is another who is impressing, and I feel he is an underrated talent.

But TJ remains crucial. They are going to need the former Hurler of the Year at his best, but there are signs that the others around him are stepping up to the plate.

Can Dublin cause another upset?

Mattie Kenny had a clear plan for Galway, one which Dublin executed to perfection.

There were so many positives, with standout performers all over the field.

Alan Nolan, Daire Gray, Danny Sutcliffe, Liam Rushe, Conor Burke, Donal Burke and Ronan Hayes all produced their A-game. Dublin have to be brimming with confidence, without a fear of Kilkenny.

They will be well-organised on Saturday evening, and they will have learned from 2020 not to let Kilkenny get a fast start.

But so much depends on the fitness of Eoghan O’Donnell.

If he is out, there is every chance TJ Reid will start on the edge of the square. Cian O’Callaghan will probably slot in, and he nullified Brian Concannon two weeks ago, but Reid is another step up.

Kilkenny still hold an aura for Dublin. You would imagine that the Sky Blues will need to be five or six points better than Kilkenny to beat them by one.

But they’re not without hope. And I give them a really good chance.

Sky Sports’ live GAA coverage continues on Saturday, with the hurling qualifier meeting of Clare and Wexford, before Monaghan and Armagh face off in the Ulster Football Championship semi-final. Watch live on Sky Sports Arena from 12:30pm.

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