Munster acquaintances ready for All-Ireland first

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Munster Acquaintances Ready For All-Ireland First
Limerick beat Waterford in this year's Munster final in November. Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
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Muireann Duffy

The GAA has faced growing criticism over the past number of years regarding the lack of competitiveness in the Senior Football Championship, but this year has truly proven that Hurling does not suffer from the same aliment.

Far from faltering under the pressures brought on by Covid-19, this year's season has served up many moments of brilliance to compensate for the three-month delay with one last enticing match-up ready to see us through to next year.

Limerick and Waterford are our final pairing, having never met at this stage before, once again making the All-Ireland clash a very Munster affair.

John Kiely's men will undoubtedly be the favourites, and with good reason - their form since the restart has been unparalleled, marching through the Munster Championship and All-Ireland semi-final unscathed.

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Of course, Limerick's Munster final victory this year also came at the expense of Liam Cahill's side, but if that encounter is anything to go by, Waterford will know that despite their reputation, the Treaty men are not invincible.

That Munster title clash was one of Limerick's toughest challenges this year and it would serve them well to remember that, as tomorrow is likely to be more of the same.

The difference between the two sides back on November 15th was ultimately what sets Limerick apart from all the teams in this year's championship: that last quarter push.

The stamina and depth in the Limerick squad means that far from slowing down as the game enters its final minutes, Kiely's side stays sharp enough to twist the knife and get the win.

In the semi-final, Galway found themselves level with nine minutes left despite the loss of Joe Canning, but a Tom Morrissey-inspired surge in the closing minutes saw Limerick through by three points.

Waterford know this all too well. Mid-way through the second half in the Munster final they found themselves leading for the first time in the game, only for Gearoid Hegarty to bring on the beginning of the end for the Déise.

The Limerick team is littered with star performers, including top-scorer Aaron Gillane who is fit to play and due to start despite bruised ribs picked up in the Galway game, but Waterford are not lacking in star-quality either.

Calum Lyons fared well against Hegarty in the sides' Munster clash, which, if he can replicate tomorrow, could prove crucial, while Stephen Bennett and Tadhg de Búrca have both been tipped for Hurler of the Year.

It may be a big ask for Waterford to bridge their 61-year All-Ireland title gap, but roll back the clock to the start of the year and seeing them in the final at all would have seemed like wishful thinking.

An exciting contest is what we want, and it is what we will likely get.

The match throws-in at 3.30pm in Croke Park and will be televised on RTÉ and Sky Sports.

Antrim and Kerry will also contest the final of the Joe McDonagh Cup at 1pm, with coverage on RTÉ. Fans and businesses in the counties involved in today's action are being urged to adhere to public health guidelines with gardaí increasing high-visibility patrols over this weekend.

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