The draw for the hurling qualifiers takes place on Monday, June 26 – and with some of the biggest teams in the country having fallen at the provincial hurdle, it seems as if we could be looking at the most wide-open championship in years.
The games are to be played the weekend beginning July 1 with three matches between Munster and Leinster opposition ensured.
The winners of those four games will then face off in Round two for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals against the respective beaten provincial finalists.
There are eight teams in the hat for the draw – Tipperary, Limerick, Waterford, Kilkenny, Offaly, Dublin, Westmeath and the winner of the Carlow/Laois preliminary round tie.
With a host of the initial favourites for Liam McCarthy now taking the back entrance to Croke Park, we’ve picked out three potential qualifiers which will send hurling fans across the country into a frenzy should their names meet.
Tipperary vs Kilkenny
Where else to start but with this cracking encounter. A repeat of last years All-Ireland final could well be on the cards at this early stage of the championship. With both sides looking to make amends for dismal starts to their provincial campaigns – this tie would bear just as much importance as any Kilkenny-Tipp meeting of the past. With Kilkenny looking for revenge for last year’s defeat – and Tipp aiming to silence their critics this campaign, this could make for one of the games of the summer at the beginning of July.
We don’t normally see names like Seamus Callanan and TJ Reid in the qualifiers – but 2017’s hurling championship is shaping up to be very different to those of the past.
Kilkenny v Waterford
Waterford fans will be hoping after a poor showing against Cork that they manage to avoid Kilkenny – but to be the best, you have to beat the best. Last year’s All-Ireland semi-finals between the two counties saw some of the greatest hurling on display in years – and the Deise will be looking to once again prove that on their day they are more than capable of challenging anyone.
Kilkenny will be out to show that their defeat to Wexford doesn’t mean that the writing is on the wall for their golden era – and that they will still be around come the business end of the summer. One thing is for certain – if this game is anything like last year’s, we’re in for an absolute cracker of a qualifier.
Limerick v Dublin
Two sides who will be looking to be involved in the latter stages of the championship again. Limerick fell short against Clare whilst Dublin were easily dispatched by Galway. Although perhaps not up to the standard of the other counties, these sides will have no expectations upon them going into these games, given their potential opponents – and therefore can hurl without fear and sneak their way into the All-Ireland Hurling quarter-final stages.
Should these two teams meet, it would make for an interesting encounter – with both possessing talent that could make for an exciting battle.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena