We’re now passed the half-way mark of this year’s Allianz NHL and the tables are beginning to take shape.
It was an intriguing weekend of action which stirred up numerous talking points.
A number of sides will be happy with their lot so far this spring, while others may now begin to feel nervous about their performances to date.
Both Clare and Limerick find themselves sitting pretty at the top of Division 1A and 1B respectively, though Galway, like John Kiely’s men, have a 100 percent record in 1B.
On the other end of the scales, both Waterford and Antrim are yet to register a victory and may now be feeling the heat.
Let’s take a look at five talking points from this weekend’s action.
1. Forde and Mooney deliver for Tipp
Semple Stadium delivered a quality night’s hurling on Saturday. High-flying Wexford took the challenge to Tipperary and came agonisingly close to pulling off yet another shock.
For the home side, however, the performances of both Jason Forde and Daragh Mooney will have provided huge confidence to their supporters.
UL student Jason Forde chipped in with 2-9, while Mooney pulled off two fantastic saves late on.
For Wexford however, the combination of missed frees alongside a lack of composure in front of the goal will leave the Yellowbellies kicking themselves.
A victory here would have provided a huge boost to Davy Fitzgerald’s side going forward, and it was achievable.
2. Limerick impress once more
John Kiely’s men breezed past Dublin this weekend to ensure they keep their promotion hopes alive.
Limerick appear to be the form side in 1B this spring, though they will need to defeat Galway if they wish to finally achieve promotion.
Speaking of Galway, Micheal Donoghue’s men do appear to be dusting off the cobwebs of a long winter’s celebrations.
The Tribesmen proved too strong for an Offaly side who have taken something of a backward step since their shock victory over Dublin.
Laois rallied together to claim a crucial victory over bottom of the table Antrim. Ross King was in phenomenal form with 0-16 (albeit 0-14 coming from frees) as Laois stormed their way to victory.
They have yet to face Offaly and may yet grab that fourth quarter-final spot.
3. Waterford’s Walsh Park woes continue
Since 2015, Waterford have won just two games in Walsh Park, one of which came against Antrim.
The other was a hard-fought victory over Kilkenny in February 2016. It appears as though the neutral venues may yet suit Derek McGrath’s side better come championship.
Brian Cody, on the other hand, will be delighted with how this weekend unfolded. Under pressure for a victory, some of Brian Cody’s younger stars rose to the occasion.
The performances of both Martin Keoghan and Pat Lyng were particularly impressive.
The Déise appear to be suffering from their late return to training, though they do appear to have placed little to no emphasis on the league.
There is still, of course, the chance that these sides will clash once again in a relegation play-off.
4. O’ Malley shines for Clare
While the Banner kept up their unbeaten run in the league yesterday, their performance was something of a mixed bag. One man who stepped up massively though was debutant wing-back, Mikey O’Malley.
For John Meyler however, there will be some worry as to how much Cork struggled without Conor Lehane and Alan Cadogan. It appeared that without this duo, the midfielders and half-backs lost faith in their forward line, resulting in a number of aimless wides.
These sides have produced a number of classics since 2013, however, this was one game which most certainly won’t be placed into the classic category.
Both sides were wasteful and suffered from inconsistency throughout.
5. eir Sport get coverage absolutely spot-on
When it comes to the coverage of GAA, it can be extremely difficult to please supporters. TG4 appear to be the most universally popular, while RTÉ’s hurling coverage is far more popular than its football counterpart.
eir Sport, however, have come on leaps and bounds this spring. Presenter Ger Gilroy’s duo of experts Brian Hogan and Eoin Kelly are recently retired and up-to-date with the modern game, which allows for interesting analysis.
However, the real ace held by eir Sport is the commentary partnership of Tommy Walsh and Anthony Daly.
The sheer enthusiasm they both hold for hurling is an addition to any game.
Let’s hope to hear more and more from them in the future.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man where we hear from Brendan Maher, Davy Fitz, Pat Gilroy and John Kiely after the third round of the National Hurling League: