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Shane Stapleton: Munster & Leinster Hurling Senior Championship Finals Preview

07 Jun | news | BY Shane Stapleton | MIN READ TIME |
Shane Stapleton: Munster & Leinster Hurling Senior Championship Finals Preview

Shane Stapleton looks ahead to Clare v Limerick and Dublin v Kilkenny in a big weekend of hurling.

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You get the sense that Limerick and Clare can’t get into the heat of battle quick enough.

The bring-in-on-merchants of Munster hurling have produced some incredible tussles in recent years, but some would say this is not a true rivalry.

Yes, they share a boundary line, go to school and college with each other, work side by side, love the ancient game equally, but only one team has been on top.

The oft-mentioned rebuttal when pundits speak of the rivalry between Manchester City and Liverpool, or more recently with Arsenal, is that the latter duo haven’t won enough to even call it such.

Limerick are chasing their sixth Munster crown in succession, have set a course for a historic All-Ireland drive-for-five, and all the while the Banner have sweet FA to their names since a brilliant Liam MacCarthy capture in 2013.

Clare’s collapse at home to Limerick in the round-robin provincial meeting in late April served to remind us of the psychological scars that continue to define this relationship, with the Treaty coming from nine behind to win.

You have to go back to 1998 for Clare’s last Munster SHC title win. Ger Loughnane was manager, that season they sought a high court injunction to get Colin Lynch off a red card, which failed, and Brian Lohan was sent off after four minutes of the provincial final replay against Waterford. Truly, they were days of abandon.

The Banner have lost six finals since — 1999, 2008, 2017, 2018, 2022, 2023 — and it is 29 years since they last downed the Treaty in a Munster finale: 1-17 to 0-11, on a day when Davy Fitzgerald slammed a penalty to the net.

There is a sense that this is Clare’s time, particularly when they have made it this far without being able to start Tony Kelly, and when you see the injury issues that Limerick have been dealing with.

Peter Casey is gone for the year, Seamus Flanagan is out, and it means that Aaron Gillane has the carry the mantle in the full-forward line. With just 2-1 to his name from open play in four Munster outings, Conor Cleary will feel he can limit the reigning Hurler of the Year on Sunday.

Yet you wonder if this Clare team can be trusted. They blew up in the opening clash this season, were helped by a Cork red card the next day out, had some guesswork to thank for a late ‘65 winner against Waterford, and didn’t impress in their win in Tipperary.

Limerick to win by 1-3 points is 4/1, and it’s the same price for the champions to get the first score of the game from a dead ball; we’re picturing Will O’Donoghue winning the throw-in and being fouled for Diarmaid Byrnes to convert.

The Leinster final between Dublin and Kilkenny is an intriguing affair. The Cats went to Parnell Park recently and stole the two points thanks to a late Eoin Cody goal.

Micheal Donoghue will have been burned by the defeat but it was proof positive that his side can live with The Cats. Croke Park might even suit his pacy side that bit more than the four-in-a-row provincial kings.

During the early era of the GAA, the rulebook was perhaps the most potent scoring machine about. The first ever game of any All-Ireland SHC was due to take place on 30 July 1887, but then the Tipperary representatives were awarded a walkover victory over the Dublin outfit.

The latter had sought a postponement as some of their players were on holiday, but alas it came to nought as The Premier went on to beat Clare, Kilkenny and Galway to win the open-draw championship.

The Kilkenny-Dublin Leinster hurling finals of the early days were always pockmarked by off-the-field issues. In 1893, The Cats won after a walkover, two years later the Dubs had to beat their rivals twice after an objection from the Noresiders forced a replay, and in 1903 Kilkenny were awarded the title after a Dublin goal was disputed.

You might have expected the quibbling to end there… but no, of course it didn’t. Dublin won the 1908 Leinster decider after a walkover, and then Kilkenny lost in 1925 but received the title after another objection — their fourth such success in a provincial decider.

Michael Collins, then Dáil Éireann Minister for Finance, threw in the ball to start the 1921 clash in front of 17,000 supporters at Croke Park. It is a long and storied rivalry that has seen 44 provincial finals (excluding replays) between the counties, with the Dubs winning their 13th and most recent one back in 1942.

A draw at 10/1 is quite tempting here, while Brian Hayes for first goal at 14/1 makes plenty of sense. The Kilmacud Crokes man is one of the fastest players in the game and his searing runs up the middle have been a feature of this Leinster campaign.

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Shane Stapleton

Multimedia journalist who produces content on Gaelic games, regularly features on Irish TV and radio, and who has won two All-Ireland club hurling titles as a player.

Shane Stapleton

Multimedia journalist who produces content on Gaelic games, regularly features on Irish TV and radio, and who has won two All-Ireland club hurling titles as a player.