Surprisingly, the first Munster Senior Hurling Semi Final of the year has crept us on with barely a whimper until the last day or two. Perhaps, the somewhat poor form of both Waterford and Limerick in the league with both teams finishing on just six points had something to do with it, but when the draw was made for this tie, it had all the ingredients for a real humdinger.
And do you know what? It still has. If you asked me before the league campaign got underway, I'd have slightly favoured Limerick in this affair; the Justin McCarthy factor and the fact that if Limerick turned up like they did for the 2007 Championship swung it for me. And while both teams finished level on points in the League - Waterford actually beating Kilkenny by four points, and Limerick running the Cats extremely close and losing by just one - Waterford's form has been slightly the better of the two, and they even managed to catch Bernard Dunne's fight prior to their defeat to the Dubs.
McCarthy doesn't seem to have discovered a number of new players since taken over the reigns for the Treatymen this year; then again, he may not have needed to, given that the nucleus of the three-in-a-row U21 team should be still in their prime. However, that team has become one of the most underachieving proving that underage success doesn't always indicate similar honours at Seniors grade (see also the Tipp U21 team of 79-81 who had to wait until '87 before even gaining Munster Senior success).
Nonetheless, McCarthy has quality players at his disposal, and runs with a fairly experienced line-up - Damien Reale at corner-back is as tight a marker as there is, Brian Geary is at Centre-back, and former Young Hurler Of The Year Seamus Hickey has recovered from injury to be moved out to Centre-Field. In the forwards, the Moran brothers (Ollie and Niall) and Andrew O'Shaughnessy is where Limerick will be expecting to garner some scores.
However, there are times when Limerick seem completely lacking on the scoring front, relying on free-taking or O'Shaughnessy turning on the style; "Shocks" probably best sums up Limerick's forwards, in that he can blow as hot and cold as a Triton in need of desperate maintenance. Yet, Limerick did manage to score five goals against Waherford just two years ago in the All Ireland Semi.
This, you can beat your bad debts on, is the stick that Davy Fitzgerald is hitting the Deise players with in his dulcet tones in the run up to this tie. John Mullane has just about recovered from his hamstring injury to assume his place in a forward line more than capable of scoring, particularly if Eoin Kelly is in form. Throw into the equation Ken McGrath starting at Centre-Forward (will he?) and you've one heck of a match up with Geary.
Waterford's backs can still be a little bit suspect, even if they had made improvements in this area in the last year or two - will Michael 'Brick' Walsh have the same impact at centre-back as Ken McGrath? Time will tell.
Thurles will be a melting pot come 4pm on Sunday, and this game really could go either way. For some bizarre reason, I've a sneaky feeling this one could end all square - now that's sitting on the fence. Making a prediction on this just seems too tricky, but if I had to, I'm going to say Waterford by two points.
Limerick: B Murray; D Reale, S Lucey, M O'Riordan; S Walsh, B Geary, M Foley; D O'Grady, S Hickey; J Ryan, O Moran, N Moran; A O'Shaughnessy, J O'Brien, D Ryan.
Waterford: C Hennessy; E Murphy, D Prendergast, N Connors; K Moran, M Walsh, A Kearney; S O'Sullivan, S Molumphy; S Prendergast, K McGrath, J Nagle; J Mullane, E Kelly, E McGrath.