Joe Canning: Loose talk of Limerick’s demise has been greatly exaggerated

I expect John Kiely’s side to beat Tipp, but it is less easy to explain how so many false rumours about teams find their way to social media

My phone was hopping on Monday with people asking me about Gearóid Hegarty. Had he walked away from the Limerick panel? What happened? Was he really gone? As if I’d know. How would I know? As it turned out, there was no story. By Monday evening it was clear that Hegarty had gone nowhere. Something had started on social media and caught fire.

It’s part of the modern world: somebody puts something up on social media and, whether it’s true or not, people will share it and some people will believe it. Before you know it, a story will get out of hand.

I remember years ago there was a story going around that myself and David Burke weren’t getting on. We weren’t talking or we didn’t like each other, something along those lines. At the time we were sharing a house in Oranmore, where we lived together for five years. David is one of my closest friends and was one of the best men at my wedding. Where did the story come from? Who started it? We hadn’t a clue. It didn’t bother us but it made you think. Where do all the other stories come from?

The story about Hegarty might have been flying around for a few days before it hit social media, and for the Limerick players that was a bit of noise they could have done without. You often hear managers and players talking about blocking stuff out, but it’s impossible. In their day-to-day lives players are always going to meet people who want to talk about the next match or the latest rumour and that can wear you down a little bit if you’re not careful.


Managing their exposure to social media is something that players need to think about, though. I wouldn’t be in favour of telling players they should stay off it completely – like a drink ban approach. They’re adults, you have to trust their judgment.

I know a few years ago the Galway minors were made to hand up their phones when they got on the team bus to go to matches, but I think that’s going too far. I’m involved with the Galway minors this year and we wouldn’t dream of that approach. You can speak to the players about it, but ultimately you’re not going to gain their trust unless they feel that you trust them too.

I sometimes think, though, that the world of social media is different for GAA players. After the Munster-Leinster URC semi-final in the Aviva last weekend, loads of the players were putting up pictures on social media. I don’t know whether they’re told to do it or not, but an intercounty player would think twice about doing something like that because of what people might say. “Who does yer man think he is? He needs to get down off his high horse.” GAA supporters tend to have a different outlook on something like that.

After their performances against Waterford and Clare people have been asking if Limerick are vulnerable all of a sudden. I said at the start of the season that I didn’t think they were that far ahead of the rest, and I don’t think they were that bad in their first two games either.

They only lost to Clare by a point and Limerick had some really unusual wides in that game. After they lost to Cork on the opening night of the League I said that teams should push up on Limerick and not give them easy overlaps where they can just march the ball from their own half of the field and launch attacks. Clare took that approach in the Gaelic Grounds. They didn’t allow Limerick to build anything easily.

It will be really interesting to see what tactical approach Tipperary will take. Having conceded seven goals in their first two matches they will be acutely conscious of tightening up at the back, but what is the best way to defend against Limerick?

The All-Ireland champions are not a big goal-scoring team. When the ball goes inside to Séamus Flanagan and Aaron Gillane, nine times out of ten they will shoot for a point. Their big goal-scoring threat is when they have runners going through the middle, and Tipp can’t allow that to happen.

Does that mean they should set up with a seventh defender? The Tipp supporters would go insane if they saw their team playing with a sweeper. It probably means their centre-fielders sitting deeper, and their half-forwards coming out. I remember in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final against Tipp, Dan McCormack sat in front of me. But if you do that, you’re giving Limerick the kind of easy exits from defence that Clare denied them.

It’s a balancing act. If Tipp hadn’t conceded so many goals in their first two games they might have been more inclined to push up on Limerick. I’m not so sure now. In Tipp there will always be a certain attitude of “we’ll score more than you”, but Limerick have the capacity to hit 30 points on any given day and that’s a hard score to chase.

Seán Finn is a serious loss for Limerick and there’s a doubt about Cian Lynch, but they have top-class players who can slot in. Mike Casey didn’t start against Clare and neither did Hegarty. Not many teams can call on All-Stars as replacements.

Having been without a match for the last three weeks will be a huge help to Limerick too. There’s a huge amount of experience in that group, and they have some incredible people in their management. They’ve had plenty of time to iron out whatever stuff needed to be addressed.

I saw a picture on social media of about 10 Limerick players having coffee in a place down by the river after training last Sunday. They look like a united bunch to me. I can’t see them losing to Tipp.