The second of two All-Ireland hurling semi-finals is nearly upon us, and it promises to be a barn-burner. With a pair of Munster counties in Limerick and Clare who are quite familiar with one another, and a pair of elite managers, it's sure to be a great matchup.
Let's take a look at the match, and figure out who will come out on top and win the right to face Cork in the All-Ireland final.
Where: Croke Park, Dublin, Ireland
When: 3:30 p.m. IST (10:30 a.m EST)
TV: The match will be broadcast on RTE One in Ireland but will not be televised in the U.S.
These two squads figure to deliver a high-scoring, thrilling match, courtesy of their styles of play.
Limerick ranked as one of the highest-scoring squads in the county tournaments, thanks to the brilliant tactics of manager John Allen. This team excels at finding space for points, thanks to the tireless play of Seamus Hickey in defense, while forwards Declan Hannon, David Breen and midfielder Donal O'Grady are nearly automatic once they get the ball into their hand.
Granted, their defense is leaky at times; they struggle to mark on the half-back line at times, and goalkeeper Nicky Quaid has had serious moments of inconsistency.
However, Allen has addressed many of those issues thanks largely to Hickey, who serves in a wild role that sees him shift quickly from centre-back to wing forward, creating chances and slowing down the opposing offense to keep pressure off of Quaid and the young back line. That tactic helped the Treaty bring home their first Munster title in 17 years and has carried them to within two matches of an All-Ireland title.
Then there's Clare. The Banner rank as one of the youngest, most talented squads you'll find anywhere in Ireland. Thanks in large part to the unique tactics and short-passing style of manager Davy Fitzgerald, Clare's youngsters have become one of the most dangerous squads in the sport.
They pressure across the pitch, forcing opponents into making bad passes or turning the ball over, and led by young stars Tony Kelly and Conor McGrath, they score at a prodigious pace. Their defense is solid and will continue to improve going forward.
But this team isn't without its warts, either. Thanks to the youth that pervades this club, they've never been anywhere approaching a stage this big previously. That kind of inexperience can be a benefit at times, but it can also let nerves creep in and cause problems. On top of that, the defense isn't perfect, and it has been known to suffer severe lapses at times.
Look for this one to be a high-scoring shootout and deliver a classic, back-and-forth match. In the end, Limerick's explosive attack will overwhelm the young Clare defense in the early stages of the match, but once the Banner find their legs, they'll cut things closer; however, the Treaty's will to win will push them over the top and into the final.
Limerick 3-24, Clare 3-22
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