1. Limerick chasing history
You have to go back to 67 years for the last time that Limerick scored senior championship victories over Tipp in three successive seasons, the last of those in 1948.
A repeat hat-trick is the prize for the Shannonsiders if they can see off the Premier County at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.
The bigger carrot, of course, is a place in a third successive Munster senior hurling final, a feat last achieved by Limerick from 1994-1996.
The weight of history won’t unduly concern TJ Ryan and his players, who have cited a breakthrough victory against Tipp in 2013 as a major step forward in their evolution.
Limerick hadn’t won any game in the Munster championship since 2007 until then but outscored Tipp by 0-9 to 0-2 down the home straight, learning the lessons from 2012 when they blew a seven-point lead in the final 20 minutes.
2. Eamon O’Shea bids to end Munster drought
It’s almost incredible to think that Eamon O’Shea is still chasing a first victory in the Munster championship since taking charge in 2012.
Tipp lost against Limerick in the last two seasons but there’s a steely determination in the camp to make up for those defeats.
It’s O’Shea’s third and final season at the helm before he hands over the reins to assistant manager Michael Ryan.
And the Tipperary players are anxious to repay the faith that O’Shea has shown in them by delivering silverware this summer.
An All-Ireland title is the big target, having gone so close last year, but Tipp want to go the direct route and winning a first Munster title since 2012 is the obvious way to do it.
3. Noel McGrath’s absence
McGrath is thankfully on the mend after surgery on testicular cancer and made a welcome return to training recently, albeit in a naturally restricted capacity.
His absence from the team on Sunday robs Tipperary of a vital creative force, however.
McGrath is a maker and taker of scores, excellent in a roving role around the middle third where he has a habit of picking up loose ball and knocking over long-range scores.Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube
McGrath picked off 0-16 in last year’s championship, scoring in every one of Tipp’s seven outings.
He was superb in the qualifier victory over Galway, hitting five points, and in the All-Ireland finals against Kilkenny, McGrath helped himself to four from play in the drawn match and two in the replay.
4. Battle-hardened Limerick
The overwhelming trend in recent times has been for Munster quarter-final winners to win semi-finals against undercooked opponents.
Cork did it last year against Clare after coming through two tough battles against Waterford, although Clare did buck the trend two years ago when they beat Waterford before losing to Cork.
However, you have to go back to 2007 for the previous example of a quarter-final winner falling at the semi-final hurdle, when Cork lost a high-scoring joust against Waterford.
Tipperary (2012, 2011 and 2009), Cork (2010) and Clare (2008) all jumped the semi-final fence after winning their opening round fixture.
Limerick will have learned plenty about themselves from a bruising encounter with Clare while Eamon O’Shea will hope that his charges will show enough in their first outing to get the job done.
5. Home advantage
It’s standing room only at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday and this fixture seems to have captured the imagination of both counties.
Both the Mackey and uncovered stands are sold out and the anticipated attendance could yet top the 40,000 mark.
Limerick won against Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds as recently as 2013 but also showed how they can be successful on their travels in Thurles last year.
It’s ten years since Tipperary won a senior championship match against Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds, a fixture that went to extra-time on a night when Eoin Kelly scored seven points and Tommy Dunne added four.
History is against Tipperary but it’s sure to be desperately tight as just one aggregate point separates the two counties in their last three provincial tussles, Limerick marginally ahead.
6. The Cian Lynch X-factor
Limerick boss TJ Ryan is confident that Cian Lynch can step up to the mark again.
The 19-year-old marked his senior championship debut with a three-point haul in a man of the match performance against Clare and now faces another big test.
But Lynch is a proven winner from the underage ranks and plays a ‘freestyle’ brand of hurling with abandon.Source: kelvin lynch/YouTube
The Patrickswell dynamo has been in the spotlight over the last few weeks but this is only what he would expect, given his talent and impact thus far.
Lynch will provide his maker with a stern examination as he has the ability to produce a trick to bamboozle any opponent.
Despite the fact that he’s fresh out of minor, Lynch also possesses the physique to cope with the big hits.
– First published 06.30