by James McMahon
Limerick v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds, 4pm
Tipperary’s quest to win a hat-trick of Munster titles begins with a trip to the Ennis Road against opposition who are bidding to reach the provincial final for the first time since 2007.
Back then both counties served up an absorbing three-game saga at the semi-final stage. Limerick eventually prevailed as they embarked upon a journey that was to take them to the All-Ireland final.
Subsequent clashes have seen the Premier gain the upper hand, and 12 months ago a brilliant second half revival saw them overpower John Allen’s side in the Munster quarter-final. That was the best that the Blue and Gold served up last summer.
Their August defeat to Kilkenny was viewed as an embarrassment by many of their supporters. However, 2013 has brought about renewed optimism, with Eamon O’Shea at the helm.
Kilkenny were just that little bit better than Tipp in the League final, but O’Shea was keen to accentuate the positives afterwards. Getting the squad back to the pitch that made them formidable in 2009 and ’10 is clearly his goal. He knows he has the raw material to do it.
As for Limerick, 2012 ended with defeat against the Black and Amber. Yet, there was no shame in that reverse. The Division 1B league final loss to Dublin in April will have hurt as they looked the better outfit for the most part.
Championship is ultimately where any side will be judged, and while Donal O’Grady and now John Allen have done much to restore Limerick’s fortunes, the latter will be under pressure to deliver an even richer dividend this summer.
Tipperary’s stronger bench was the crucial factor that swung last year’s clash in their favour. However, a glance at the Limerick starting XV for today's game shows no room for the likes of Conor Allis, Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes and Niall Moran.
While the trio are likely to get game time at some stage, it is an indication that Limerick are better equipped to repel any sustained onslaughts.
U-21 star Declan Hannon starts at full-forward and will play alongside Graeme Mulcahy and Seanie Tobin. The latter missed the defeat to Dublin on 6 April. Captain Donal O’Grady has recovered from a broken collarbone and will line out at midfield.
Tipperary hand Championship debuts to Kieran Bergin and Jason Forde. Bergin, who starts at wing-back, made his senior debut in the defeat to Kilkenny last month. Forde lines out at wing forward.
As anticipated, Lar Corbett misses out as he continues to recover from the fractured ribs he sustained against Kilkenny.
Brendan Cummins who is embarking on his 19th Championship campaign, is favoured to Darren Gleeson in goal.
Traditionally Limerick don’t fear their neighbours and have some decent players to call on from the bench. They will bring an intensity to proceedings that could rattle Tipp.
However, the reigning Munster champions have the classier players, with the Mahers, Noel McGrath and Seamus Callanan, all likely to have a telling influence on what is likely to unfold.
Limerick: Nickie Quaid; Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon; Paudie O’Brien, Wayne McNamara, Gavin O’Mahony; Paul Browne, Donal O’Grady: David Breen, James Ryan, Seamus Hickey; Graeme Mulcahy, Declan Hannon, Seanie Tobin
Tipperary: Brendan Cummins; Paddy Stapleton, Paul Curran, Michael Cahill; Kieran Bergin, Conor O'Mahony, Padraic Maher; Brendan Maher, Shane McGrath; Jason Forde, Patrick Maher, John O'Brien; Shane Bourke, Seamus Callanan, Noel McGrath.
Live television coverage of Offaly v Kilkenny from 13:30 on on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only). Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Limerick v Tipperary from 14:00 on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).