by Micil Glennon
Limerick v Dublin, Semple Stadium, Saturday 7pm
While the Division 1A juggernaut travelled like a roller-coaster, the ante-post favourites for the 1B final proved the bookmakers correct.
Limerick dropped just a solitary point (a draw with Wexford last week) on their way to the top of the table.
Dublin’s only blotch was the third-round defeat to tonight’s opponents.
That win was, in some ways, a bit of a shock. Anthony Daly’s men had burst out of the blocks, winning the Walsh Cup and accounting for Offaly and Antrim in the league.
Limerick, on the other hand, had scraped past the Saffrons and new boys Carlow, both games won with unconvincing displays.
However, John Allen had primed his charges for what was always likely to be the crucial game at HQ and ran out six-point winners.
So the Munster men may just have a slight psychological advantage in Thurles, where a coveted spot in Division 1A awaits the winner.
Alongside that prize, is a semi-final date with Tipperary, but any further progress would be the cherry on top.
Dublin captain Johnny McCaffrey insists that Dublin are right where they want to be.
"They were very good for a period and we were very good for a period but scored more when we were dominant" - John Allen
"So far it's gone to plan. We went out to win the Walsh Cup. We succeeded in that. We went out to get to the league final in 1B, which we've done,” McCaffrey said in the Irish Independent.
Paul Ryan, red-carded in the league meeting with Limerick, is named to start for the Dubs having impressed as a substitute against Carlow last week.
Treaty County boss Allen is happy with how his season has gone so far, but indicated to the Limerick Leader that the result of the Croke Park game won’t mean anything come throw-in time.
“At least it’s a measure of where we were both at two weeks ago - they were very good for a period and we were very good for a period but scored more when we were dominant - we will certainly be going all out next Saturday,” he said.
Allen reports no injury concerns, apart from Donal O’Grady who has not recovered from a broken collarbone yet, with Tom Condon set to return.
The last time the Dubs played in Munster they got stung by Clare in the All-Ireland qualifiers, and the Shannonsiders may just have that extra bite on the night.
Limerick: Nicky Quaid, Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon, Paudie O'Brien, Wayne McNamara, Gavin O'Mahoney, Paul Browne, James Ryan, Conor Allis, Seamus Hickey, David Breen, Kevin Downes, Declan Hannon, Graeme Mulcahy.
Dublin: Alan Nolan, Peter Kelly, Paul Schutte, Ruairí Trainor, Michael Carton, Conal Keaney, Shane Durkin, Joey Boland, Liam Rushe, Simon Lambert, Johnny McCaffrey, Danny Sutcliffe, David O’Callaghan, Conor McCormack, Paul Ryan.