Limerick and Galway face off in the All-Ireland final on Sunday afternoon, and these match-ups could determine the tie.
All-Ireland finals can be decided by the tightest of margins. Individual battles all over the field ensue as the two teams attempt to outwit, out-muscle and out-hurl one another. Here are three such clashes which could prove crucial.
Joe Canning vs Declan Hannon
While the Limerick captain has preferred to sit deep this season, he could be charged with the task of keeping tabs on the reigning Hurler of the Year.
Canning has been in immense form of late, winning the man-of-the-match award against Clare in the semi-final replay. If the Portumna star gets a run on Hannon, he can win the game almost single-handedly, but the Adare club-man is more than up to the task.
Their battle on the 45 could prove crucial to the outcome at full-time.
Johnny Glynn vs Mike Casey
Casey was drafted into the starting XV after the opening game with Tipp, where a porous Limerick rearguard struggled throughout. The Na Piarsaigh star has brought some much-needed stability since, but will face a new challenge when Johnny Glynn trots towards the edge of the square after Amhrán na bhFiann.
Glynn has caused both Kilkenny and Clare major problems this summer, helping Galway into early leads, and if he gets on the front foot against the Treaty, Casey could be in for a long afternoon.
Cian Lynch vs David Burke
The midfield battle is crucial in such a fast-paced encounter. Lynch and Burke are the engines of their respective teams, and can truly drive their sides forwards. It’s not entirely clear what match-ups will work out in the middle of the park, but as this duo are so intrinsic to their team’s chances, it’s a mouthwatering prospect to see them on each other.
Interestingly as a side-plot, this pair could likely be battling for one All-Star spot with Darragh Fitzgibbon of Cork having been so impressive throughout the summer.
Our man Babs Keating believes this young Limerick team will get their hands on Liam MacCarthy one day, but he’s backing Galway to prevail today:
“The best scenario for Limerick is that their young players take the occasion in their stride, play with a bit of naivety and truly express themselves.
The alternative is that they freeze on the big stage against an experienced team of powerful men, most of whom stand well over 6ft.
It’ll probably pan out somewhere in between, with Galway hitting that level they need and having too much for an up-and-coming Treaty side.”
Here’s a reminder of how the teams are scheduled to line-up later on today:
GALWAY: J Skehill; A Tuohy, Daithi Burke, J Hanbury; P Mannion, G McInerney, A Harte; J Coen, David Burke; J Cooney, J Canning, J Glynn; C Whelan, C Cooney, C Mannion.
LIMERICK: N Quaid; S Finn, M Casey, R English; D Byrnes, D Hannon, D Morrissey; D O’Donovan, C Lynch; G Hegarty , K Hayes, T Morrissey; A Gillane, S Flanagan, G Mulcahy.