The intercounty GAA season got underway on Wednesday night with Dublin’s hurlers getting a win over Carlow in the Walsh Cup in what was a pretty low-key start to the year – even by GAA standards. However, there are a number of things you can expect from January action, where hope springs eternal for all teams.
People give out about colleges!
They shouldn’t be in the competition! Or so the argument goes. The college teams in the pre-season tournaments, often means that inter-county teams are under-strength and young talents are tied-up playing with their university teams.
While this means that you get to see unusually match-ups (eg UCD v Kilkenny) neither side see the game as anything more than a challenge match. The other positive is that managers can have more than 20 players in action.
Munster made the move last year to get rid of the third-level sides when they created the Munster Senior Hurling League. However, other provinces still have college representation, and coaches and supporters alike are sure to be critical – especially if a big player gets injured playing for their college.
The big upset…that leads to nothing
Waterford won a rare bit of football silverware in 2015 when they won the McGrath Cup, beating UCC in the final. However, when it came to Championship, the Déise were hammered by Tipperary, losing by 22 points.
Last year, Longford beat Dublin in the O’Byrne Cup but lost their Championship opener convincingly against Offaly (who, in turn, were beaten by Westmeath in the next round). So look out for a team to have a big January result, receive the “will this be their year” treatment, before limping out of the Championship early in the summer.
It’s becoming more and more common that losing managers try to deflect blame for defeat on the men in the middle. This isn’t just a GAA thing – every Premier League post-match interview involves blaming officials. Let’s hope that managers remember that it’s the pre-season for the referees too!
Fringe players from top teams lay down a marker
No matter what happens in January, Dublin, Kerry and Mayo will be there or there abouts in the football, and Tipperary and Kilkenny will be up there with the top hurling contenders.
So when these teams try out young players in the early-season games, they will try to get lay down a marker and try to force their way into the starting XV come the summer. An example of this is Tipperary’s Dan McCormack whose strong league campaign got him a starting jersey in the Championship – where Tipp would claim All-Ireland glory.