Pundit Arena columnist Eoin Larkin reviews the weekend’s hurling action.
What a round of hurling that was, and the story of the weekend was arguably Cork.
The Rebels have been steadily improving. Over the past number of weeks, I’ve spoken about consistency, or lack thereof from Cork, but they’ve now delivered two big results in a row.
That’s a big boost in confidence coming into the summer. They’re going to be very dangerous.
Physicality was something that lacked in Cork over the years, they always had the hurlers, but they sometimes lacked in the physical stakes and that let them down. Yesterday they met that challenge head on.
Confidence will be sky high looking ahead. They have a quarter-final at home to Limerick next week and they’ll be looking to improve on that again.
One of the main positives was the performance of Patrick Horgan. His attitude towards the game has been questioned. But yesterday he was positive, worked hard for the team and his performance speaks for itself.
I wouldn’t be too worried if I were Michael Ryan. Tipp’s strongest team wasn’t out. They didn’t have Cathal Barrett, Ronan Maher, Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath and John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, to name but a few, in that starting XV yesterday.
Ryan will bring those lads back, and will also be able to bring on the lads who got some experience yesterday. Tipp were already qualified anyway, so it was a game to nothing.
Kilkenny get the job done
In the second half yesterday, Kilkenny were very impressive. Conor Martin, Liam Blanchfield and Jason Cleere all did a job, but some seasoned campaigners were very quiet. Richie Hogan was taken off again.
They left Dublin in the game. Even in the second half when they got on top, they were playing in fits and spurts. Dublin went in a point down after doing all the hurling in the first half.
That will be a worry for Brian Cody. He will want the team to play from the first minute until the last, and not let up.
The Cats face Wexford next week, and the elephant in the room is the likely Leinster semi-final between the two on the horizon.
But Cody doesn’t do shadow-boxing. It’s just about the here and now. Whatever comes further down the line, he’ll deal with it then.
He always wants to do well in the League. The longer he goes in the League, the more competitive matches they’ll get, and the more confident they’ll get.
That can only be good for the summer then.
I’d be worried for Dublin. They need a settled goalkeeper.
It seems to me that Ger Cunningham doesn’t know what his best goalkeeper is, let alone his best team. It’s hard for lads to get settled in a position. Gary Maguire got sent off yesterday, and deservedly so for a very nasty pull.
I think they’re going to have to decide on one goalkeeper and go with him if they want to progress through the summer.
I didn’t see a whole lot from them yesterday, I thought Kilkenny were poor enough in the first half but couldn’t take advantage.
The same old failings are there with Dublin; they’re lovely nice hurlers but they’re unwilling to get involved in the physical battle.
The Cuala lads coming back will be a huge boost to them. It’s one they really need.
They’re playing Clare in the relegation battle. They’ve only a week to integrate the Cuala lads back in. Those guys have had a hectic few weeks, so it will be a tough balancing act for Cunningham.
Big week for Clare
Waterford will be delighted with their win in Ennis. After being beaten by Cork, going down on their last day and getting the win will be a huge lift. But where do Clare go from here?
Firstly they need to get their heads in the right place ahead of next week and get the win against Dublin, and stay in Division 1A, before looking ahead to that Limerick game in the Munster Championship. It’s clear that Gerry O’Connor and Donal Maloney have a lot of work to do before the summer.
Finally, there is a lot of talk about League structures.
Next weekend Offaly will face Tipperary. The Faithful won one game in Division 1B, and now face the All-Ireland champions.
It’s not going to do anyone any good for Tipp to play Offaly and beat them by a cricket score, same when Kilkenny played them last year. It can sap the confidence of the team going into the Championship.
I don’t have the answers, but it seems to me that the GAA don’t have the answers either. They’re willing to let it go as long as people accept it.
Something needs to be done.