And then there were two. After yesterday’s semi-finals of varying excitement, Galway will take on Tipperary for the National Hurling League title. We take stock of what that means for the pecking order.
1. Tipperary (no change)
Still the team to beat. The Premier found another gear against a Wexford team that brought the fight yesterday.
A hallmark of the great Kilkenny teams under Brian Cody was their ability to score goals at the right times. Tipp showed that in abundance yesterday. The manner in which the Yellowbellies were in the mix with 15 minutes to go, but ended up losing by 11 points tells its own story.
John McGrath has taken a step up, and is operating on a level higher than any other forward in the country at present. The work-rate of Dan McCormack is bringing the other forwards into play, and Noel McGrath is flying too. The days of this Tipp attack being too reliant on Seamus Callanan are in the past.
The worrying thing for the other contenders is that Michael Breen, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher weren’t in the starting XV. This team is only going to get better as the year goes on.
2. Galway (+4)
Yesterday was by no means a classic, and all the headlines are about Limerick’s shortcomings.
But the Tribesmen went about their business effectively, and deservedly rise to 2nd. Physicality is the name of the game for this giant Galway team, and the return of Johnny Glynn will only add to this.
Mícheál Donoghue has his key players in positions where they look comfortable.
Aidan Harte, Johnny Coen, David Burke, Conor Cooney and Cathal Mannion have all looked impressive, while Joe Canning’s role at centre-forward is bringing others into the game, and making the full-forward line more dynamic.
A loss to Wexford did them no harm, as they build towards the summer. However, next Sunday should be approached as a Championship game. Beating Tipp would not only fuel them with confidence, but also send out a warning to the rest of the country.
3. Wexford (-1)
Davy’s side can hold their heads high following yesterday’s defeat. Despite a quick Premier start, the Yellowbellies worked their way back into the tie, and were just two points down with 15 minutes to go.
Ball was worked via Lee Chin throughout, and he operated not only as a link-up player but also as a scoring threat.
Shaun Murphy was as influential as ever in the backs, cleaning up ball throughout and making life difficult for the impressive forward unit.
Their discipline was impressive, but were overrun by an almighty effort by Tipp, who amassed 5-17 from play.
Focus now turns on the Championship. There is no reason why they can’t repeat the trick against the Cats in the Leinster semi-final.
4. Kilkenny (-1)
5. Waterford (-1)
6. Clare (-1)
7. Limerick (no change)
Disappointing. That’s the only word for the Treaty’s performance yesterday.
Sure, Galway are a team with All-Ireland title ambitions who were on form, but where to now for John Kiely’s side?
All over the park, they came off second best. They were out-worked, out-fought and out-hurled.
Sure, if they were more economical with their chances and converted some of their 17 wides, the gap could have been shorter.
Can they beat Clare in the Munster semi-final? There’s no reason they can’t, but facing into the summer, it’s difficult to see them beating a top team.
8. Cork (no change)
9. Dublin (no change)
10. Offaly (no change)
11. Laois (no change)
12. Kerry (no change)