So as we approach the semi-finals of this year’s league campaign, there has been much to talk about. From Kilkenny’s continued dominance, Cork’s great escape and the success story of Kerry hurling, this year’s campaign had it all.
Here are six major talking points that have emerged:
1. Cork Survive
This angers me if I’m being honest. Cork, who finished the league campaign with five defeats from five faced Galway in the relegation decider. Cork triumphed and sent Galway to Division 1B with a late charge inspired by Seamus Harnedy and Patrick Horgan.
I’d like to hear someone explain how Cork even deserved a relegation play-off after not even picking up a point during the campaign. What makes it worse is that Galway had a decent outing, with two draws and a win but found themselves in the danger zone. Surely it’s only fair that if the bottom team are to be so far off the pace from the others then they should be automatically relegated.
2. Tipp Toppled
It was never going to be a straightforward campaign for Tipperary was it? The loss of some key players to retirement meant they would perhaps need to restructure and blood some new talent. Defeats to Kilkenny and Waterford saw them dragged into a relegation dogfight but victory over Cork on the final day ensured they stayed up. Tipp were beaten last Sunday in Ennis in a tight affair, however.
Tipp’s problem these days seems to be closing out big games – they’ve surrendered leads and their wide tallies have been staggering. Their heavy reliance on Séamus Callanan and Bubbles O’Dwyer has been evident recently, but it’s their bottle and character that has been called into question of late. Can Michael Ryan’s side turn it around in time for Championship?
3. Dublin Dilemma
It’s becoming an all too common habit among Dublin in recent years, basking in brilliance one week only to fall in failure the next. Dublin had a steady campaign, ensuring survival with wins over Galway, Cork and Waterford but a poor showing in Nowlan Park saw the Cats march to victory. Limerick followed a similar fate to dispatch Cunningham’s Dubs in Parnell Park last Saturday.
You get the impression that all is not well in Dublin, with Carton’s departure, Nolan’s axing and former All Star Sutcliffe also walking away recently leads some to think that Ger Cunningham may be having problems behind the scenes. On their day they can mix it up with anyone but uncertainty remains as inconsistency continues. There’s plenty of work to be done before Wexford come to Croke Park in May.
4. Cats Dominate
It just seems as if it’s an endless cycle. 2016 has seen Brian Cody add yet more stars to this frighteningly strong Kilkenny team. The conveyor belt of talent isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, if anything it’s becoming even more efficient. Cody’s men marched to the quarter-finals and then thrashed an Offaly side that struggled through Division 1B to the tune of 24 points.
Reid, Hogan, Power, Fennelly, Larkin, Tyrell and co. still marshal the side but it just seems that Cody can pick them at ease from nowhere. Kevin Kelly, Ger Aylward, Diarmuid Cody and Jonjo Farrell are all examples of some of the players that have been unearthed in recent years as it seems Kilkenny’s dominance is set to continue.
5. Limerick Setback
TJ Ryan’s position may well be saved after an impressive performance ended Dublin’s unbeaten streak at Parnell Park last Saturday. The result comes in light of frustration after their loss to Clare in the promotion decider of Division 1B, Davy Fitz’s men condemning Limerick to a seventh year out of the top tier.
6. Kerry Success Story
One for the neutrals. Kerry have retained Division 1B status after a promising campaign that saw them pick up victories over Offaly and Laois before again defeating Laois in the relegation play-off. It’s great to see, and let’s hope they don’t run into the path of one of the big dogs anytime soon as it will only hinder their progress.
Gavin Quinn, Pundit Arena