Limerick and Tipperary meet in the quarter final of the Munster Senior Hurling Championship in Semple Stadium on Sunday in the first big clash of the 2012 All Ireland season.
Tipperary, the reigning Munster Champions, will head into the clash on the back of seven wins in their last eight provincial matches and will have boosted further by the return of star forward Lar Corbett, who is forced to contend with a place on the bench after a 2 ½ month hiatus from inter county hurling.
Declan Ryan will hand a championship debut to Donagh Maher, with the 23 year old set to take his place in the full back line alongside Paul Curran and Michael Cahill.
Limerick’s preparation for the summer ahead meanwhile haven’t exactly gone to plan with a failed Division 1B promotion campaign followed by the departure of selector Ciaran Carey.
Carey was believed to have been unhappy with the team’s preparations under manager John Allen although the Cork man has been keen to assure supporters that all is well within the camp.
Allen hopes to assert those claims with a strong performance against Tipperary although he will do so without Seamus Hickey, who misses out with an elbow injury.
While Tipperary will be able to call on Corbett from the bench Limerick have their own ace in the pack on the sidelines with teenage talent Declan Hannon.
The forward has missed the last few months through injury but has now returned to full training and came through a practice match unscathed to hand Limerick a welcome boost.
Just like Allen, who is making his Championship bow as Treaty manager, forwards Conor Ailis and Shane Dowling will also be making their Championship debuts on Sunday.
Limerick has won just one of their last 16 Championship games, an extra time win over Sunday’s hosts in 2007 and in the prevailing 5 years they have managed to achieve 5 draws, while their last away win in the Championship came in 2001
Should Limerick overcome the form guide, the underdogs tag and the weight of recent history then they will advance to a provincial semi final against Cork.
Tipperary – Brendan Cummins, Donagh Maher, Paul Curran, Michael Cahill, Thomas Stapleton, Conor O’Mahony, Padraic Maher, James Woodlock, Brendan Maher, Gearóid Ryan, Noel McGrath, Pa Bourke, Eoin Kelly, Brian O’Meara, John O’Brien.
Limerick – Nickie Quaid, Stephen Walsh, Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon, Wayne McNamara, Donal O’Grady, Gavin O’Mahony, Paul Browne, James Ryan, David Breen, Conor Allis, Shane Dowling, Graeme Mulcahy, Kevin Downes, Sean Tobin.