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8 key questions facing managers on a bumper weekend of hurling action

Brian Cody, John Kiely, Davy Fitzgerald and Liam Sheedy are among the bosses in action.

1. Can Cody avoid a third straight Leinster final defeat?

brian-cody Brian Cody during the semi-final win over Dublin. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

NEVER BEFORE IN the Brian Cody era have Kilkenny lost three successive Leinster finals. Since their last victory in 2016, the Cats fell to eventual All-Ireland champions Galway in 2018 and to Wexford the following year.

But Kilkenny regrouped to reach last year’s All-Ireland final and despite the transition talk of recent seasons, they’ve slowly rebuilt some strength in-depth.

The Cats introduced Richie Hogan, Martin Keoghan, Conor Browne, Alan Murphy and Richie Leahy off the bench against Dublin, while the forward line has a settled look to it and is built around the talents of TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly. 

Galway traditionally hold no fear of Kilkenny and they’ll arrive into the Leinster final as favourites. But Kilkenny’s defeat of Limerick in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final shows they still very much sit at the top table.

2. Can O’Neill get one over on the master? 

shane-oneill Galway's manager Shane O'Neill. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Shane O’Neill is facing Cody for the first time but as a county Galway have enjoyed more success than others against the Kilkenny boss.

A clip of Cody speaking about his coaching philosophies surfaced on Twitter recently, where the Kilkenny boss was referencing their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Galway in 2005. 

“We were being slaughtered by Galway,” he began. “It happens with us and Galway sometimes.” 

Off all the sides the Cats have faced off with during his reign, no county has troubled them as much as Galway. They’ve beaten his team six times from their 20 championship encounters since he took charge, including 2015, 2018 and 2019.

A win over the Tribesmen would satisfy Cody like few others, given the pain of the 2001 and ’05 All-Ireland semi-final defeats they inflicted on him.

3. Can Sheedy lead Tipp to success through the backdoor again?

liam-sheedy Tipperary boss Liam Sheedy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Both of Tipperary’s two All-Ireland wins under Liam Sheedy arrived via the backdoor route following heavy provincial defeats so they’re not entering new terrority this time around. 

“The only good news is we’ve been on the back roads before so we do know the back roads,” said Sheedy after the Limerick loss. “It’s a road we have travelled before.”

Sometimes Tipperary look like a side who need to get the whip before they produce their best performances. They find themselves at the last chance saloon once again and facing a Cork side who are still smarting from recent criticism inside and outside the county.

4. Will Kingston’s Cork bring the fire? 

Kieran Kingston beefed up his forward line with the introductions of Robbie O’Flynn and Declan Dalton against Dublin which saw the Rebels rediscover some of the form that deserted them against Waterford in the Munster semi-final.

Their convincing win over Dublin was a step in the right direction but they’ll need to raise their performances levels up another gear to beat a Tipp side still smarting from their convincing loss to Limerick. 

Cork possess quality all over the field and certainly have the firepower to hurt Tipperary, but keeping the Premier forwards at bay will require savage work-rate in the middle third.

If the likes of Seamus Callanan and John McGrath get a good supply of ball they’re hard stopped, so Cork’s priority should like in making midfield a war zone.

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5. Can Davy spark Wexford back into life?

davy-fitzgerald-stands-for-the-national-anthem Davy Fitzgerald before Wexford played Galway. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Davy Fitzgerald didn’t hold back following Wexford’s tame Leinster exit to Galway and with two weeks to stew over their under-performance, they’ll be keen to put things right against Clare.

Talk of Fitzgerald’s fall-out with Lohan might have predictably dominated the build-up in the media, but all the conversations in the Wexford camp will be around rediscovering the energy that brought them to the last four of the All-Ireland series in 2019.

Facing a wounded animal is a dangerous prospect and knowing the fiery competiter that Fitzgerald is, he’ll have Wexford bouncing off the walls come 

6. Can the Banner muster a huge performance under Lohan?

The Banner faced a difficult prospect heading into the championship without Peter Duggan, John Conlon and Colm Galvin, while Podge Collins’s departure was also a significant blow. 

Factor in David McInerney’s one-game suspension for his red card against Laois and you begin to see the scale of the challenge facing Brian Lohan’s team.

Tony Kelly has performed heroics over the past couple of games, scoring 0-31, but Fitzgerald will assign a man-marker to closely track the Ballyea ace.

Can inside forwards Shane O’Donnell, Aaron Shanagher and Ryan Taylor ease the scoring burden on Kelly in the packed Wexford defence? How much that trio score will go a long way to determining the outcome of this one.

7. Will Kiely allow any complacency seep into Limerick’s game?

john-kiely Limerick’s John Kiely during the Munster semi-final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Limerick’s consistency over the past three seasons has been nothing short of remarkable.

Aside from their shock All-Ireland semi-final exit to Kilkenny last year, when they failed to show up in the first half, they’ve managed to keep their performance levels at a highly impressive level. 

John Kiely won’t change his tactics for anybody, as evidenced when Tony Kelly scored 0-17 points against the Treaty in Munster. Limerick didn’t tweak their system for Kelly, knowing they had the weapons to hurt Clare at the far end of the field.

They’ll be heavy favourites for the Munster final and Kiely will be striving to ensure even a hint of complacency doesn’t seep into his squad.  

8. Are the Cahill’s Deise capable of an even bigger upset?

Waterford’s stunning semi-final win over Cork was one thing, but the climb gets significantly steeper from here. Liam Cahill got his tactics spot-on against the Rebels yet Limerick’s finely tuned system is a different prospect entirely.

Cahill will likely flood the midfield with bodies and attempt to shut down Limerick’s half-forward line – which is arguably their strongest line on the field – to cut out the supply line into Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey and Graeme Mulcahy.

The introduction of several youngsters into the Waterford team has revitalised the Deise, not least Meath native Jack Fagan and former soccer professional player Dessie Hutchinson. It would be quite the story if they managed to gun down Limerick.

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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