The National Hurling League is back. Chris Prendergast recaps the five biggest moments from week one.
This weekend saw the Allianz Hurling League return with a bang. Roinn 1 saw action between Cork v Kilkenny, Dublin v Tipp, and Galway v Clare. Roinn 2 opened its campaign with Laois v Offaly, Limerick v Waterford, and Wexford v Antrim
For Kilkenny it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same as a team of fresh faces saw off a late comeback by Cork in the final quarter to win the game 1-22 to 2-17. The Dubs got their league campaign off to a great start under new manager Ger Cunningham. They dealt a hefty blow to last year’s All-Ireland Finalists, Tipperary, beating them 2-20 to 0-14.
Elsewhere Galway and Wexford edged out one point winners over Clare and Antrim, respectively; while Laois will be disappointed they couldn’t take points from Offaly in O’Moore Park, the hosts losing 0-23 to 1-24. The only draw of the weekend occurred between Limerick and Waterford in what was a thrilling shootout ending 2-16 to Limerick 0-22 to Waterford.
Here’s a look at five of the biggest moments of the weekend.
1. Biggest Score
Galway’s Jason Flynn played the role of hero for his side pointing the winner in the final moments of the game. Galway were awarded a free as referee Brian Gavin judged Clare’s Jack Browne to have picked the sliotar from the ground. Under pressure Flynn, who only moments before had drawn the sides level with a 65, pointed the winner for Galway.
Flynn remained composed despite a chorus of boos which rang out from Clare fans while a slight ruckus took place just next to Flynn between backroom staff of both sides.
2. Biggest Talking Point
While Tipp usually get off to a slow start at this time of year, their loss does allude to some interesting thoughts.
Firstly, Dublin have gotten off to a great start under new manager Ger Cunningham; a Walsh Cup final, which they narrowly lost, and victory in the league over last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists.
Secondly, Tipperary have no excuses for such a harrowing defeat. Eleven of the players who started in the All-Ireland Final Replay against Kilkenny were included in the starting fifteen in Sunday’s match. Ger Cunnigham will be hoping to continue Dublin’s new found spirit while Eamon O’Shea will be looking to shake off the cobwebs before next week’s encounter with Galway.
3. Biggest Save
Anthony Nash pulled off the save of the weekend against Kilkenny’s Mark Kelly. Nash who had earlier saved a penalty from Hurler of the Year, Richie Hogan, kept Cork’s fight alive by reacting with lightning speed and getting down to block Kelly’s effort.
Psychologically it was a big moment for Cork as they had just got a goal through a high ball from Cormac Murphy to which Luke O’Farrell got a touch and knocked it past Eoin Murphy.
4. Biggest Blooper
Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy was made to look quite ordinary as he conceded two goals, which under different circumstances may have been avoided. However it was the second of the two goals for which Murphy was most at fault. Cormac Murphy saw his shot from the halfway mark drop just short but the Kilkenny keeper fumbled the ball, enabling Conor Lehane to tap it in for a goal.
5. Moment of Magic
It’s always special to see backs scoring spectacular points and none more so than Richie McCarthy’s score in the dying minutes against Waterford. The Limerick full-back found himself a long way from home when he scored a superb point from midfield to put his side ahead in added time. Unfortunately for Limerick, McCarthy’s effort was not enough as Paudie Prendergast levelled the sides to end the thriller in a draw.