Preview: Weekend's Hurling Championship action
All Ireland SHC Semi-Finals
Saturday July 27
Limerick v Kilkenny, Croke Park, 6pm
For the third summer in a row Limerick and Kilkenny collide in a high stakes battle.
Limerick learned many valuable lessons when losing a qualifier to Kilkenny at Nowlan Park in 2017.
Ultimately it meant that last year's All Ireland quarter-final success over Kilkenny enabled Limerick to enter Croke Park heartened for the last two rounds.
Since that triumph Limerick have added the All Ireland, Allianz League, and Munster titles to their collection.
Cool and calculated Limerick's provincial decider success over Tipperary was a reminder of how crafty John Kiely's charges can be.
On that June afternoon Kilkenny endured a worrying loss to Wexford in the Leinster showpiece, but the Cats' response against Cork was typically defiant.
Richie Hogan was prominent, Walter Walsh made an impact, Colin Fennelly carried a threat, and Adrian Mullen demonstrated flashes of his considerable promise.
It has been another summer in which TJ Reid's relevance to the Kilkenny cause has been underlined with 5-64 scored by the prolific Ballyhale Shamrocks attacker in the 2019 Championship.
Those figures illustrate Reid's value to Kilkenny, but at the opposite end of the field it will be fascinating to see how Brian Cody's outfit cope with a powerful Limerick half forward line.
Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, and Tom Morrissey delivered when it counted in 2018 and they will need to be monitored by Kilkenny.
Throughout the past two decades Kilkenny have relished physical battles and that is precisely what is expected on Saturday.
Inside Aaron Gillane is a significant threat, while Peter Casey and Graeme Mulcahy are sharp forwards too.
There was no shortage of semi-final fireworks 12 months ago, and this game could go also the distance.
LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid; Sean Finn, Mike Casey, Richie English; Diarmuid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Dan Morrissey; Cian Lynch, William O’Donoghue; Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes, Tom Morrissey; Aaron Gillane, Graeme Mulcahy, Peter Casey.
Sunday July 28
Wexford v Tipperary, Croke Park, 3.30pm
A first Leinster crown in 15 years was gleefully celebrated in the south east, but Davy Fitzgerald's outfit now want to deliver on the national stage.
Tipperary, though, bring a talented and experienced team to GAA headquarters for an eagerly anticipated encounter.
Wexford have shown real survival instincts in 2019 as proven by three draws in the group stages of the provincial campaign.
Fitzgerald had Wexford primed for the Leinster final with Rory O'Connor, Conor McDonald, and Lee Chin providing the scoring punch.
Tipperary are blessed with a prolific attacking unit with Jason Forde (2), Seamus Callanan (6), and John McGrath (2), combining to nail 10 Championship goals in six outings this summer.
John O'Dwyer has also nailed 0-14 from play, but the loss of the forceful Patrick 'Bonner' Maher due to a severe knee injury remains an issue.
Wexford haven't contested an All Ireland semi-final since 2004, but Fitzgerald's panel will relish the occasion in front of a bumper and expectant Wexford crowd.
Having frustrated Kilkenny, Wexford will be eager to provide a similarly tough test for Tipperary.
Wexford's smart use of possession and ability to be precise up front when it truly counted leaves them in a very healthy place entering the closing weeks of the inter-county calendar.
Disappointed by the manner of the Limerick loss, Tipperary did just enough to overcome Laois at the quarter-final stage.
Improvement will be necessary so an interesting match beckons at the Jones Road venue.