Tipperary defender Ronan Maher
Stung by the sharp criticism which confronted them following their rather tame defeat at the hands of Clare in round 2 of the Munster senior hurling championship, Tipperary travel west into the lion’s den on Sunday to tackle All-Ireland champions Limerick in what is a must-win game.
It’s a tall order for Colm Bonners men but with expectations rather on the low side, this is perhaps the perfect opportunity for the players to throw off the shackles and have a real go at the fancied Limerick lads who will be without Cian Lynch, Kyle Hayes and Seamus Flanagan for the clash.
Tipperary too have their injury woes to contend with - Loughmore Castleiney’s John McGrath being the latest to face the surgeons scalpel with a ruptured achilles tendon picked up against Clare requiring surgery on Wednesday. James Quigley too is ruled out of the game having limped out of the Clare clash and the management team will need to make changes and alterations to their format for the game - Barry Heffernan has now been positioned at the edge of the square, a scene he would be more used to than where has had been deployed of late.
Jason Forde too is out of the game and into the forward divison come Conor Stakelum, Paul Flynn and Ger Browne - Browne and Stakelum made big impressions when introduced against Clare.
The Tipperary players and management faced much criticism following the Clare defeat and that criticism has been sharp and stung greatly. Gone was the energy, bite and drive witnessed in Walsh Park against Waterford in the opening round.
And yet against Clare, had Tipperary taken their chances in the first half, or perhaps just after the half time break following Ger Browne's stirring goal, the story of the game could have been a different one. Instead, the Bannermen went on to dominate and to consign Tipperary to a rather humiliating defeat in their own backyard.
So, Tipperary must summon all of their knowhow for the journey west on Sunday and the leaders in the squad who have been the big men for a number of seasons now, really need to step up and help the rest of the squad members to up the ante. More needs to be delivered by the established players if Tipp are to come away from the Gaelic Grounds with their pride intact.
Winning would be a magnificent bonus and would resurrect hopes of progression past May, but given Limerick's lengthy unbeaten championship run and Tipperary's poor form thusfar, it would seem a long shot at best. But, here's hoping.
Just something to leave you with - here's a Tipperary team since the All-Ireland victory only three seasons ago, the members of which are now not available for selection for Sunday.
James Barry, James Quigley, Donagh Maher
Brendan Maher, Padraic Maher, Bryan O'Mara
Willie Connors, Ciaran Connolly
John McGrath, Jason Forde, Niall O'Meara
John O'Dwyer, Seamus Callanan, Conor Bowe
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