Analysis: Where the All-Ireland final will be won and lost
Man of the moment
THE first Meath man ever to play in a senior All-Ireland hurling final, Jack Fagan has been the talk of the country in recent weeks. Native to Rathmoylon in Meath, he transferred to De La Salle in Waterford city four years ago. Liam Cahill liked what he saw on the club circuit the last eighteen months and the result has been a new force of ball-winning nature in the Déise half-forward line. Fagan won a remarkable 12 puckouts in an astonishing display against Kilkenny, setting up two goals as they turned the game around on his back. He is set to go up against Kyle Hayes in a battle of the skies. If Fagan can edge the personal duel, it would go a long way to ending Waterford’s 61-year wait.
Limerick (probable): N Quaid; S Finn, D Morrissey, B Nash; D Byrnes, D Hannon, K Hayes; D O’Donovan, W O’Donoghue; G Hegarty, C Lynch, T Morrissey; G Mulcahy, A Gillane, P Casey
GIVEN the strength of his resources, John Kiely is used to having to make big calls. The big decision this weekend is in the full-forward line, and whether he retains Seamus Flanagan or restores Peter Casey. It was Casey in the Munster final and then the more physical Flanagan against Galway. There is a feeling that he will return Casey to the side. Otherwise they’ll keep Kyle Hayes at wing-back and Cian Lynch at centre-forward in a very settled team.
Waterford (probable): S O’Keeffe; S Fives, C Prunty, S McNulty; C Lyons, T de Búrca, K Moran; J Barron, K Bennett; N Montgomery, S Bennett, J Fagan; D Hutchinson, A Gleeson, J Prendergast
SHANE Fives’ return from a quad injury is likely to see him come back into the full-back line at the expense of Ian Kenny, who replaced him in the Munster final. The other decision for Liam Cahill is whether to give out-of-sorts Jake Dillon another chance in midfield. His flat summer worsened when he was taken off at the first water break against Kilkenny having lost several possessions. Neil Montgomery came in and had a huge impact on the game, to the point where it would seem very difficult to drop him. Their team picks itself beyond that.
Limerick tactical take
FOR Limerick, the winning of the game is all in the Waterford puckout. The half-back line of Kyle Hayes and Diarmuid Byrnes on the wing, with skipper Declan Hannon in the middle, is a physically powerful unit on which Waterford will not want to drop bombs all day. But the fact that Waterford have scored 5-32 off their own puckout – compared to 2-18 for Limerick – underlines the importance of winning that battle. Their forwards are workhorses and they will have noted the marked difference in terms of Waterford’s scoring rate if they are able to work the ball beyond their own 45’ before delivering it to the forwards. Much focus will be drawn to what Gillane, Mulcahy and Casey (or Flanagan) score but it will be their pressure on the Waterford defence coming out that could have the greatest impact.
Waterford tactical take
IT feels like Limerick are the side who will play the way they want to play, and Waterford will be the ones who have to adapt. They will have learned plenty from the Munster final, most notably that they must do all in their power to combat Limerick’s half-forward line. You could see Jack Fagan, Neil Montgomery and possibly even Austin Gleeson dropping right into their half-back division on Limerick puckouts to give protection against Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey under the dropping ball. Tadhg de Búrca’s tendency to drop off could be punished by Cian Lynch if he isn’t properly attended to. Limerick’s greatest source of scores has been the opposition puckout, scoring 1-31 so far this championship, so expect Waterford to try and work the ball short at times.
Calum Lyons v Tom Morrissey
TWO of the stand-out men from the semi-finals will go head-to-head. The pair are very different operators and both sides will feel that there are potential gains to be had from the match-up. Lyons is an absolute flier and tormented Kilkenny with his pace. He carried the fight down the right wing. Morrissey, though, was arguably man-of-the-match against Galway, hitting five of his six points from play. He will represent a big target for Nickie Quaid on puckouts, and while some are suggesting Waterford should keep Jack Fagan and Kevin Moran together on one wing to protect against Gearoid Hegarty, the likelihood is they’ll have to break the pair up and have Fagan covering Lyons instead.
IT’S set to be unseasonably mild in the capital this weekend, with temperatures at match-time hitting 12 degrees. Rain is forecast for the early part of the afternoon, to dry out as it goes on.
Last championship meeting
2020 Munster SHC final: Limerick 0-25 Waterford 0-21
ALTHOUGH they led for almost the entire game, it took a burst after the second water break for Limerick to finally tie their colours to a 21st Munster title.
John Kiely’s men had led by 0-14 to 0-11 at half-time but in the Thurles floodlights, Stephen Bennett led the Déise resistance and they clawed their way level before being caught late on.
The Limerick full-forward line of Aaron Gillane, Graeme Mulcahy and Peter Casey contributed 0-17 between them as they maintained their 100 per cent winning record for the year, which is still intact.
Limerick: N Quaid; S Finn, D Morrissey, B Nash; D Byrnes (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 ’65), D Hannon, K Hayes; C Lynch (0-2), W O’Donoghue; G Hegarty (0-2), D Reidy, T Morrissey; G Mulcahy (0-4), A Gillane (0-10, 0-8 frees), P Casey (0-3)
Subs: D Dempsey for T Morrissey (53), S Flanagan (0-1) for Casey (53), D O’Donovan for Reidy (56), A Breen (0-1) for Mulcahy (67)
Waterford: S O’Keeffe; S Fives, C Prunty, S McNulty; C Lyons, T de Búrca, K Moran; J Barron, J Dillon (0-2); J Fagan, K Bennett (0-1), S Bennett (0-12, 0-8 frees, 0-1 '65); D Hutchinson (0-1 line ball), A Gleeson (0-3), J Prendergast (0-1)
Subs: N Montgomery for Fagan (47), M Kearney for K Bennett (59), I Kenny for Fives (61), D Lyons for Dillon (63), P Curran (0-1) for Gleeson (65)
Who’s the ref?
HORGAN has been at the centre of two of the biggest games in Waterford’s recent past, namely their semi-final win over Kilkenny two weeks and their previous All-Ireland final appearance in 2018, when Galway got the better of them. This will be his second senior All-Ireland decider, having done a minor final (2014) and two club finals (2017 and 2019). Fits comfortably into the category of top referees over the last few years and his style of letting the game flow will no doubt contribute to the spectacle tomorrow.
Limerick (-4) 11/10
Draw (-4) 12/1
Waterford (+4) 10/11
Aaron Gillane 5/1
Dessie Hutchinson 15/2
Stephen Bennett 8/1
Worth a punt
Man-of-the-match, Tom Morrissey 12/1