It appears at least one semi-final in the 2014 All-Ireland Hurling Senior Championship could be quite a toss-up, as Limerick and Kilkenny will square off for the right to move on to the All-Ireland Championship final on September 7.
This match should be a nervy one, as the hurlers know they are just two victories away from hoisting the famous Liam McCarthy Cup and placing their names in Gaelic Athletic Association lore.
The rest of the world may have a bit of catching up to do when it comes to hurling, but those in the know in Ireland are aware of the stakes in this premier hurling event.
Limerick outclassed Wexford 4-26 to 1-11, while Kilkenny was last seen dispatching Dublin by a score of 0-24 to 1-9. Cork and Tipperary will contest the remaining semi-final, but all eyes are on a young Limerick team looking to upset one of the giants of the sport.
Here is the basic information and preview for what should surely be an entertaining semi-final matchup.
2014 All-Ireland Hurling Senior Championship Semi-Final Info
Who: Kilkenny vs. Limerick
Where: Croke Park
Date: August 10
Time: 3:30 p.m. (local time)
The matchup has generated plenty of fanfare and even brought some athletic celebrity attention of sorts. Joe.ie notes that American rugby sevens star Carlin Isles has been learning the finer points of hurling with Limerick:
Limerick will be looking for revenge against Kilkenny in this one; they lost to the Cats in the All-Ireland quarter-final back in 2012.
Kilkenny are no strangers to dominance in this sport, having won the All-Ireland Championship a staggering 34 times in the competition's history. Limerick manager T.J. Ryan is well aware of the challenge his upstart team faces in this semi-final.
"I think we're on an upward curve here. At the same time, I fully understand we're playing a team that's been the best team over the last decade, without a doubt – best manager, some of the best players that ever hurled. I'm under no illusions there," he said, via The Irish Independent's Jackie Cahill.
Beating Kilkenny will take a Herculean effort and, of course, a leading man to play the hero. The young Shane Dowling is the man of the moment for Limerick and probably many more moments to come.
His two goals in first-half stoppage time against Wexford proved vital in establishing the team's overall dominance. The 21-year-old boasts plenty of pace and physicality and should be a nightmare for the Cats to stop. Ryan noted his physical preparation has been key to his success.
"Looking at him (Dowling), he was one of the guys that might have come under pressure, but physically how he has prepared himself fitness-wise has improved a huge amount," he said, via Cahill. Limerick will be making one change to the lineup, according to The Limerick Leader's Jerome O'Connell:
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody is optimistic about his team's chances after a disappointing 2013 campaign.
"I’d say we’re going better this year. We won the league this year and last year but I did say at the end of the league that we were probably ahead of we were 12 months previously," said Cody, via a report from RTE Sport.
The Cats boast plenty of depth at every single position, especially at forward. They didn't garner a single green flag against Dublin, but that is unlikely to become a trend in the semi-final.
According to RTE Sport, the team will make two big changes to its lineup for the Limerick match, bringing Johnny Cooper and Eoghan O'Gara into the starting 15.
The All-Ireland Championship is perhaps the biggest event in Gaelic sports, and the sport has gained some increased attention lately thanks to some Sky Sports broadcasts of the proceedings in Britain.
Limerick may be the neutral fan's favorite thanks to their underdog status against dominant Kilkenny, but they will need to play at the peak of their abilities to come away with the victory in this one.