As the race for Liam McCarthy heats up Shane Kilkenny gives his thoughts on the top eight hurling counties left in the Championship.
After last weekend’s games there are now 8 counties remaining in this years All Ireland SHC. Galway blew the championship race wide open on Sunday last when they recorded an emphatic 10 point victory over Kilkenny in the leinster Final. The aura of invincibility surrounding Kilkenny has certainly been severely dented. Let’s examine the credentials and standing of the remaining sides in this year’s championship.
Kilkenny pride will certainly have been badly stung by the manner of the Galway defeat. But there is no need for panic. They have top players to return in JJ Delaney and Michael Fennelly. Both men will be a big help as they attempt to regroup in the Quarter Finals and get the defence of their All Ireland crown back on track. They have the experience to recover and are still the team to beat.
After defeating Kilkenny in such emphatic fashion Galway must now be viewed as major All Ireland contenders. The level of physical intensity they brought to the game on Sunday completely shocked the Cats. The Galway defence has really tightened up and their attack is on fire. Consistency is now the key, If they can play close to that level again they will be extremely hard to stop.
Tipperary enter the Munster Final next weekend on the back of some erratic form. Were lucky to get past Limerick in the first round of the Munster championship, but they improved immensely for the Cork game and will look for further improvement against Waterford. Lar Corbett is training hard in an attempt to rediscover his 2011 form. If he can they won’t be far away.
Jimmy Barry Murphy is rebuilding with a young team in Cork and they have probably developed more quickly that he would have expected. Massive strides have been made this year already and they are playing with a lot of confidence. If they overcome Wexford on Saturday next no team will relish playing them in the Quarter Finals.
Reaching a Munster final has taken a lot of the early season pressure off new manager Michael Ryan. Waterford always battle hard and are a proud team. Their defence and midfield are excellent, but they lack the attacking firepower to win an All Ireland.
After the disappointment of losing the division 1B league final to Clare, they missed a great chance to beat Tipperary in the first round of the championship, just running out of steam in the last 10 minutes. If Declan Hannon and Seamus Hickey are back to full fitness for the Clare game next weekend then they should make the Quarter-Finals.
The men from the Banner County have already achieved a lot this year by securing promotion to division 1A in the league and winning a big championship game against Dublin last weekend. They are a side for the future as the majority of their players are under 23. Their qualifier tie with Limerick next weekend will be extremely close but they are in bonus territory now anyway and have restored a lot of lost pride after 2 bad seasons.
Liam Dunne is starting from scratch after some poor seasons at all levels for Wexford hurling. But there are definite signs of life and they are starting to produce some excellent young players once again. A big performance against Cork next weekend is essential.