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Munster SHC: History at stake for province's new firm

When the new format for the hurling championship was launched in 2018, it was feared in some quarters that the provincial finals might become an afterthought.

A tangential interlude before the All-Ireland series.

Instead, the Munster championship has entered a new golden age – one which has left the Guinness-branded mid-90s era in the shade – with unprecedented hype, packed stadiums and sold-out notices appearing earlier and earlier in the week.

The rhetoric has occasionally gone overboard, almost provoking a split in hurling nation. At the height of Munster triumphalism last year, Niall Moran, on a wind-up mission, told the Our Game podcast that a Munster medal was nearly worth more than an All-Ireland.

From the get-go this season, the focus has naturally been on Limerick's push for a historic fifth All-Ireland in a row. But they have a chance to break new ground at provincial level this week.

Cork have done a five in-a-row in Munster on three occasions, once pre-independence (1901-05) and twice more in close proximity to one another in the 70s and 80s. It was only Limerick's duo of successes in 1980 and 1981 that was sandwiched between the latter two.

But no county has yet managed a six-in-a-row in Munster, and it will be some repudiation of the historical order if Limerick are the ones to achieve it. Rarely has the narrative of a county changed so dramatically in such a short space of time. As of 2024, it's almost hard to remember the time when Limerick were perennial hard-luck merchants.

Indeed, the last time a team embarked on a five-in-a-row All-Ireland tilt, Limerick were only nominal entrants in the championship, a devastating, season-long strike resulted in them sending out a virtual third-string outfit. They were so