With the second weekend of hurling action about to get underway, Ciara O’Toole takes an in-depth look at some of the main questions being asked ahead of round two.
4. Can Wexford Save Their League Campaign?
Wexford hurling has experienced a mixed few years. A champagne season in 2014 was followed by a mixed league campaign in 2015, which could have seen them promoted to the top flight. Championship 2015 saw heavy defeats from Kilkenny and Cork; however, there was renewed hope at the start of 2016 that real progress could be made in the Model county.
A successful Walsh Cup campaign had been viewed as the perfect launching pad for Liam Dunne and his men to finally gain promotion from Division 1B, yet last Saturday evening’s performance in the Gaelic Grounds has raised some serious questions in Wexford. Injuries aside, the performance was not at the level required to seriously challenge for promotion. There was a serious lack of intensity for such an important game and but for the brave and necessary interventions of goalkeeper Mark Fanning things could have been a lot worse.
On the plus side however, there were flashes in the second half of Wexford’s potential, with Liam Ryan showing particularly well. They face a massive challenge this Sunday with the visit of Clare to Innovate Wexford Park and will need to improve significantly on their first performance to get a result.
Winning puck-outs will be essential and a good quality of ball must be delivered to the forwards without delay. The likes of Liam Óg McGovern, Shane Tompkins and Ian Byrne thrive on quick play, while Cathal Dunbar and David Dunne have proved to be real finds for Wexford’s attack. Wexford’s season won’t end if they fail to get a result on Sunday but it is vital that they put in a performance.
3. Can Kerry Cause An Upset?
People seemed genuinely surprised at Kerry’s result against Laois last Sunday, however this was no last-gasp goal or last-minute free, but a well-earned and comprehensive victory. While the quality of their opposition last weekend remains to be seen, more experienced teams have struggled in Portlaoise, so their victory shouldn’t be dismissed or patronised.
With hurlers of the calibre of Shane Nolan, John Egan and Mikey Boyle up front, they have plenty of scoring potential going forward. The concession of two goals may be a cause of concern to management, especially facing the mammoth challenge that the Limerick forward line will bring this weekend. However, the manner in which they reacted to both goals deserves huge credit. While getting a result against Limerick won’t be easy, this Kerry side have the potential to make life very uncomfortable for a number of teams over the coming weeks.
2. Can Waterford Win The League Again?
There has been much talk of Waterford retaining the League title following their defeat of Kilkenny last weekend. Waterford showed huge appetite to maintain their Division 1A status last Sunday when they deservedly defeated Kilkenny on a scoreline of 0-14 to 0-10. The fact that they kept Kilkenny to four points from play over the course of 70+ minutes is testament to the level of intensity and work rate brought by Waterford.
However, the fact that they scored just 14 points, with ten from open play, while hitting a massive 18 wides is concerning. Creating chances is one thing but converting them is another, especially playing in such a tight division. They face a trip to Páirc Uí Rinn this Saturday evening where they meet a Cork side seeking their first points of the campaign.
Many have written this Cork team off already and they will be eager to put that right with a victory over Waterford. However, the loss of Seamus Harnedy, Mark Ellis and Conor O’ Sullivan to injury has severely hampered their preparation. Paudie O’Sullivan, Alan Cadogan and Pat Horgan will bear a lot of the responsibility as a result but can expect to be well marshalled by the Waterford defence. So can Waterford win the League again? Of course they can, but will they? It’s far too soon to tell.
1. Are Kilkenny ‘Gone Away?’
Brian Cody expressed concerns this week that his side could be facing relegation following their four-point defeat to Waterford.
After last year’s national discussion regarding the possible impact of so many retirements on Kilkenny’s chances ended in them winning another Leinster and All-Ireland title; nobody’s buying that this year…
Ciara O’Toole, Pundit Arena