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Can Anyone Challenge Kilkenny’s Dominance?

Kilkenny won their 11th All Ireland Title under Brian Cody last Sunday.

One team has dominated hurling throughout the early years of the 21st century. Under Brian Cody Kilkenny have won 11 All Irelands, 14 Leinster Championships, 8 National Leagues and 6 Walsh Cups. The period of dominance the Cats have enjoyed under Cody is simply unprecedented.

Cody’s ability to continually reinvent both his team and coaching staff, has enabled Kilkenny to eclipse even the great Kerry side that dominated football during the 70s and 80s.

When Cork beat Kilkenny 2013, there was much talk of the cats being in decline. Indeed after Clare won the All Ireland with a youthful team that year, many expected that the curtain would be brought down on Cody and his players.

However despite talk of revolution two years ago, Kilkenny will begin next season in search of yet another three in a row.

Here are the teams who will try to stop them.

Galway

Despite an opening day scare from Dublin, Galway at last found consistency this year. They have reduced their reliance on Joe Canning by unearthing the likes of Jonathan Glynn, Conor Whelan and Cathal Mannion.

However question marks remain over their full back line. Despite out playing Tipperary in the Semi Final, Seamus Callanan almost single handily knocked the Tribesmen out of the Championship.

Indeed it was another big man, Walter Walsh, that proved instrumental in setting up TJ Reid for his goal in the All Ireland Final. Ger Aylward could have got a second soon after, while Johnny Coen was lucky to remain on the field after being left one on one against Colin Fennelly.

Throughout the Championship Galway have also been guilty of striking far too many wides at crucial stages. Against Cork in the quarterfinal, the rebels found themselves in touch as the game entered it’s final quarter, despite being utterly dominated.

Likewise against Tipperary, Galway could not reply with a goal of their own in order to consolidate their lead.

The Tribesmen must also ensure that they do not disappear into the ether, as they did after their final appearances in 2001, 2005 and 2012.

Tipperary

After three years under Eamonn O’Shea, Tipperary must once more rebuild. Much was expected of Tipperary this season,  after the Premier reached last years final and won the Munster Championship this season.

However had it not been for Seamus Callanan, Galway could have embarrassed Tipperary in the semi final.

Nevertheless with the likes of Patrick Maher, John O’Dwyer and Callanan up front, Tipperary have the ability and physicality to challenge Kilkenny.

What has counted against Tipperary over recent seasons has been their consistency. Under O’Shea Tipperary had not won a Munster Championship game until this season, indeed since winning the All Ireland in 2010, Tipperary have failed to deliver on their potential.

A new management team might therefore be the perfect tonic to renew Tipperary’s focus.

Waterford

Arguably the most interesting team to emerge from this year. Waterford’s brand of hurling won as many admirers as it did critics.

Indeed in relative terms the Deise enjoyed a successful season, winning the National League, losing out in the Munster Final and qualifying for the All Ireland Semi Final.

However while they appear to have the foundations in place, they will have to build upon them if they are going to become All Ireland contenders.

Although their defensive system won them many plaudits, Waterford will need to add to their attack if they are to challenge Kilkenny.

They will also have to bring something more to the table next season, as they will no longer hold the element of surprise in their favour.

Clare

Next season will probably be the most important in the managerial career of Davy Fitzgerald. After winning the All Ireland in 2013, Clare have since had two consecutive underwhelming seasons.

Nevertheless, having won three under 21 All Ireland Titles in a row and possessing the core of the 2013 team, Clare have the raw material needed to challenge Kilkenny.

However the circus surrounding the team and Fitzgerald will need to cease. Far too often Clare have featured in the headlines for off the field related matters. Indeed the manner in which Fitzgerald carries himself in public will also have to improve if Clare are to be seriously considered contenders.

The Others

I think it is fair to say that each of Cork, Dublin and Limerick have regressed this year. Limerick failed add the extra firepower necessary to bring them closer to challenging, while the task facing Ger Cunningham in Dublin looks to have got even more difficult.

Cork end this season at their lowest ebb for some time. Short of quality players throughout their squad, the Rebels will have to think long term before challenging Kilkenny.

Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.