Munster Senior Hurling Championship(Waterford v Limerick,
Walsh Park, Sunday, 2pm)

Brian Flannery Reports

Waterford hosts their second home Munster Championship game this Sunday with the visit of All-Ireland holders Limerick.The stakes couldn’t be higher for both sides that have yet to register a victory between them in this years’ title race. Waterford lost their opening game by the narrowest of margins while Fanning’s men suffered at the hands of a red-hot Tipperary last time out.Limerick are also pointless having lost their only game to date against Cork at the Gaelic Grounds.
Waterford proved the perfect hosts when welcoming Clare to Walsh Park a month ago but such tasks are secondary to the need for an on-field victory. Anything but a win and Waterford will exit the championship at the earliest stage for a second year running. Waterford took an inordinate amount of time to get into their opening game and only found momentum with ten minutes or so to go against the Banner. The early goal needlessly conceded to John Conlon left Waterford on the back foot and chasing the game from almost the throw-in.

Similarly by the time Conor Gleeson was making his way up the steps at the Old Stand in Semple Stadium Waterford trailed by eight points. To state that Waterford must start well this Sunday is indeed stating the obvious. The players must give the home crowd something to get behind. In the opening two games Waterford failed to raise a green flag with a limited number of goal scoring chances. Stephen Bennett failed to connect with a long ball against Clare with the other half-chances restricted to a couple of twenty metre frees at the death. Against the Premier Patrick Curran’s shot off the post before the break was sole goal effort. Limited to fourteen players for the majority of the game it was always a difficult task to create goal scoring opportunities with the opposition having the luxury of an extra defender.

Goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe has attracted much comment for a couple of wayward puck-outs and loose clearances. In fairness to the Ballygunner stalwart the movement and availability of players in front of him left a lot to be desired. You need players to run into positions to receive the ball rather than the opposite. The composition of the full-back line remains to be seen. Captain Noel Connors had a torrid afternoon last time out in difficult circumstances for any corner-back but is likely to be retained for this must win game. A fit again Shane Fives could be in line for a recall in place of the unfortunate Philip Mahony who suffered a broken leg against Tipp. Conor Prunty, Callum Lyons and Tadhg de Búrca are all also likely to be in the starting line-up. Jamie Barron and Kevin Moran likely to continue in the middle but its’ up front that will require much thought.

Veteran Michael Walsh could add much needed physicality and experience in the number 10 position alongside Pauric Mahony and Austin Gleeson. Tommy Ryan, Stephen Bennett and Shane Bennett is the trio that have played together most this season in the inside line.

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