It was a decisive weekend in the Allianz Hurling League with the lineup for the competition’s Division 1 quarter-finals now confirmed.
On Saturday, Limerick overcame Waterford in their rescheduled fixture while Galway dumped Tipperary out of the competition on Sunday following a 3-21 to 3-13 win in Salthill.
Meanwhile, Antrim’s 2-14 to 0-20 draw with Offaly over the weekend saw Kerry leapfrog the Faithful County into a place in the Division 2A final.
Read our main talking points from the weekend’s action below.
1. Galway produce sensational comeback to down old enemy
‘Tale of two halves’ doesn’t even begin to tell the story of the events in Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Tipperary, with three goals under their belt and with a seven-point lead at the break, looked to be heading straight for the quarter-finals of the Allianz League.
Yet Galway decimated them in the second period and the Premier County had no response. Inspired by the performances of Brian Concannon and Conor Whelan in their forward line, Shane O’Neill’s side hit 3-12 to Tipperary’s 0-6 in the second half with Evan Niland impressing while on free duty.
It was a shrewd performance from O’Neill. He whipped off Paul Killeen in the early stages of the game when it was clear the corner-back could not cope with the movement of John McGrath who buried two early goals. The introductions of Adrian Tuohey and David Burke provided a timely boost of pace and their forward unit played with an impressive cohesion considering the absence of playmaker Joe Canning.
For Tipperary, it’s back to the drawing board and Liam Sheedy will have plenty of time to assess what his side needs to work on. It’s 63 days until their Munster Championship opener against Waterford and it will be interesting to see how the Premier County deal with the nine-week break from competitive action.
2. Limerick ease into semi-finals – can they be stopped?
Limerick laid down another marker at the weekend in their 1-21 to 1-17 win over Waterford, booking their place in the Allianz League semi-finals. The Treaty men are unbeaten so far in this year’s tournament having survived tough tests against the likes of Tipperary and Galway.
During the down period, all the talk was about the conduct of Limerick players off the field but since the return of the league, the headlines have all been about their eye-catching performances on the field. John Kiely has unearthed some gems during the competition with the likes of Barry Nash, Aaron Costello, David Dempsey and David Reidy strongly pushing for championship spots.
Key playmakers like Cian Lynch, Gearoid Hegarty and Tom Morrissey all seem to be hitting near-top form so all the signs currently point to Limerick pushing on in the competition. Talk of them potentially peaking too early seems unverified at the moment, it’s well known that Limerick still have plenty left in the tank. The question remains about the style of play and whether it is easy for rivalling counties to predict and counter. The reigning league champions aren’t going to show their full hand in the league, no matter how much they want to win it. At the moment, Kiely is laying the foundation blocks for what could be another successful summer for Limerick.
3. Quarter-finals – will teams go full strength or will it be a case of shadow-boxing?
The fixture details for the Allianz League quarter-finals were confirmed on Monday with Wexford welcoming Galway to Wexford Park on Saturday while on Sunday Waterford travel to Nowlan Park to take on Kilkenny.
For new managers, Shane O’Neill and Liam Cahill, bringing their respective sides to the semi-finals of a national competition does set out a statement of intent, especially considering the disappointing manner in which Galway and Waterford exited the championship last year. O’Neill seems to have expertly navigated the tricky field of blooding new players while progressing nicely through the competition.
The win over Tipperary was a massive scalp for the Limerick native and he will be happy to have at least one more week of competitive hurling action. Having said that, it also means that Galway are playing for their third weekend in a row, as are Waterford, while Wexford and Kilkenny have enjoyed a week’s break. Player management must be in the back of his head.
Davy Fitzgerald would also relish the opportunity of making the semi-finals of the Allianz League. Wexford haven’t won the competition in 47 years while their last final appearance came in 1993. The Leinster champions aren’t often touted as potential All-Ireland winners but, while the league has certainly dropped in importance in recent times, a national title would certainly make waves ahead of another championship run. How he deals with this weekend’s clash will be interesting considering their meeting in Leinster on May 23.
4. 2A final set for Croke Park
There was welcome news on Monday afternoon with the confirmation that the Division 2A final between Kerry and Antrim will be played out on the biggest stage in Croke Park.
Kerry coach and Tipperary legend Brendan Cummins had called on the organisation to host the game at GAA HQ on The Sunday Game saying the second division deserves the exposure.
“All year both teams have played through haggard pitches, through weather, rain and they can’t express themselves. I’ve seen Division 2A hurling, Joe McDonagh, the skillset is amazing so why not platform our game?”
Kerry coach Brendan Cummins suggests the Division 2A final between his side and Antrim could be played in Croke Park pic.twitter.com/wtYWdnWRXk
— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) March 8, 2020
All signs point to a very competitive final in Croke Park. The sides met earlier this month when Antrim prevailed by six points over a Kerry team weakened by the mumps but Offaly’s late concession of goals in their clash against The Saffrons paved the way for Fintan O’Connor’s side into the league decider.
A national title would be a major boost for the two sides who will be hoping to have a major say in this year’s Joe McDonagh competition.