Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Allianz Leagues were postponed prior to the hurling quarter-final.
With attention firmly on the championship and what structure they will take in order to get them finished on time, it’s looking increasingly likely that the remainder of the 2020 leagues will be canceled though that will have ramifications with promotions/relegations down through the divisions, not to mention the impact on the Tailteann Cup.
Many have said that the Allianz Hurling League has lost some of its magic in recent years with the competitive levels dwindling due to most teams being more concerned with experimenting rather than winning the trophy. However, what it continues to be used for is to try out new players in the hope of adding to a team’s squad depth prior to the championship.
This has proved fruitful over the past number of seasons for different counties and 2020 was no different with a number of players already catching the eye despite the reduced game time.
We have listed four such players who we expect to see in action during this year’s championship. Who else impressed during the 2020 Allianz League? Let us know in the Facebook comments.
Aaron Costello – Limerick
Kilmallock’s Aaron Costello made his senior debut for Limerick against Laois in last year’s Allianz League quarter-final but it was during the 2020 campaign when he really made a name for himself in the Treaty’s full-back line.
He impressed at corner-back against Galway in their second league game and his form was a welcome relief for John Kiely as the experienced Richie English sustained a cruciate injury in that game and was ruled out for the season. His loss is Costello’s gain however as his championship place is all but guaranteed as a result.
Eoin Cody – Kilkenny
Brian Cody has a talent for unearthing one or two young players every year who he throws in at the deep end, just think of Walter Walsh’s senior introduction in his man-of-the-match performance against Galway in the 2020 All-Ireland final replay.
Eoin Cody is a familiar name in Kilkenny circles, hailing from back-to-back champions Ballyhale Shamrocks and has a very recognisable uncle in Henry Shefflin. Having impressed at club level, the Cats manager opted to make him captain on the occasion of his first competitive start against Laois. The 20-year-old didn’t disappoint, scoring 1-8 while he looked assured when he took over free-taking duties. Together with teammate Evan Shefflin, Cody is already being touted as a player to watch in the championship.
Evan Niland – Galway
Evan Niland is no stranger to inter-county hurling but has been enjoying prolonged exposure on the senior stage under new manager Shane O’Neill. Having starred at underage level, he made the step up in 2019 and has impressed throughout the 2020 campaign, slotting seamlessly into the role of free-taker in Joe Canning’s absence through injury.
Following his Fitzgibbon Cup campaign with NUIG, Niland came off the bench against Waterford and Cork before scoring 0-14 against Tipperary in Pearse Stadium. O’Neill has been quick to praise the Clarinbridge youngster in both his free-taking and open play and his ability up front could prove very useful to the Tribesmen this summer.
Dillon Quirke – Tipperary
Dillon Quirke won an All-Ireland U21 medal in 2018 with the Premier County and so his step up to senior grade was to be expected, however, it would have been a lot sooner had it not been for a heart condition which kept him away from the game for a year.
Nevertheless, Quirke grabbed the opportunity with both hands in the 2020 Allianz League against Waterford in a must-win game for Liam Sheedy’s side, scoring five points and securing the man-of-the-match award in his full league debut. He was rewarded with a place in the starting team in their loss against Galway the following week and is another name to add to the list of Tipperary’s formidable forwards.