Normal service resumed in the Allianz Hurling League after the last week’s fixtures were thrown into chaos following some typically horrible Irish weather.
In what was a fantastic weekend for the ‘small ball’, fans were treated to some epic encounters as we learnt the fates of some teams battling it out for both relegation and promotion.
In the marquee game of the weekend, Tipperary swept aside Cork with ease who come crashing back down to earth following their win over Limerick two weeks ago, meanwhile, Westmeath, Wicklow, Roscommon and Longford all took home silverware.
Here are our winners and losers from a cracking weekend in the Allianz Hurling League.
What a win for the men from Carlow.
The Barrowsiders secured their Division 1 status for next season after a miraculous second-half comeback against Offaly in Tullamore.
Kevin Martin’s men led Carlow (who were also down to 14 players) by 11-points at the break, but goals from Seamus Murphy and Chris Nolan, as well as 0-8 from Martin Kavanagh, meant that Carlow fought back to win and condemn Offaly to Division 2 in the process.
A fantastic achievement for Carlow considering they only gained promotion from the second-tier last season.
After the win, Colm Bonnar told RTE Sport that the win surpassed anything that had gone before with the Carlow team.
“It’s nearly surpassed anything like we’ve done so far. From winning the Christy Ring to the Joe McDonagh and the Division 2 league. And this is really like a promotion to a new Division 1,” said the Carlow manager.
“Times are great to be a Carlow hurler.”
Davy Fitzgerald’s men fought back from five points down at half-time to outscore Kilkenny 1-11 to 0-2 in the final 35 minutes to set up a quarter-final tie against Galway.
Wexford finishes the group stages in second spot, only a single point behind All-Ireland champions, Limerick. Coming from behind to beat both Kilkenny and Tipperary will fill fans full of hope that Fitzgerald’s charges can push on even further in 2019 than they already have done in the past two seasons.
For the first time in 33 years, Westmeath will enjoy top-flight hurling after their Division 2A final victory over Kerry at Cusack Park, Ennis.
In what was a low scoring game (0-12 to 0-10), Killian Doyle proved to be Westmeath’s hero shooting 0-6. UCC star forward, Shane Conway, also shot 0-6 for Kerry, but it was Westmeath who were able to hold on for the win.
Having won all six of their league games, as well as, the Keogh Cup in January, yesterday’s win is the least that the Lake County deserves.
The league champions are out and not only that, they now face into a relegation playoff against Cork.
Brian Cody’s men looked to be in control against Wexford but totally capitulated in the second half where they were outscored by 12 points.
To go from champions in 2018 to a playoff the following year was previously unthinkable, especially given the history and stature that Kilkenny hold.
To be fair, you would expect to see a much improved Kilkenny outfit once their Ballyhale contingent returns, however, it could well be too late by then.
The Rebel County looked out of their depth yesterday as they were swept aside by Tipperary in Páirc Uí Rinn.
Liam Sheedy’s men ran out 13-point winners in the end and now Cork must face Kilkenny in the relegation play-off to determine who will finish 5th and 6th in the league.
Cork will be particularly annoyed with yesterday’s outcome following what was a masterful performance two weeks ago to sink All-Ireland champions, Limerick.
Kevin Martin’s men should have seen off Carlow and retained their top-flight status. However, a second-half no show allowed Carlow to claw their way back from 11-points down to win the game.
Offaly are now relegated which comes as another huge blow to a county who have really fallen on hard times in both hurling and football in the past number of years.
A lot of hurling fans were left unimpressed by RTE’s Allianz League Sunday showing last night as no games outside Division 1 were highlighted.
Given that Westmeath gained promotion for the first time in 33 years, it would have been nice to see highlights of the game as well as player reactions.
Also, the fact that three other finals were up for grabs and none was given any exposure, it’s a disappointment for the growth of hurling in the so-called ‘weaker counties’.