Following last September’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship final, many question marks were raised about both Kilkenny and Tipperary.
The Cats have wintered, licking their wounds, but many are anticipating that they may have to undergo a transitional period before Liam McCarthy will go back to the Noreside.
Meanwhile, the Premier have been bigged up, as they embark on the quest of securing back-to-back titles for the first time since 1965.
Speaking to Pundit Arena, two-time All-Ireland-winning manager Ger Loughnane is looking forward to what promises to be an extremely competitive championship but feels that the Premier may well have their work cut out.
“I don’t think we’ll ever see a superpower like the great Kilkenny team from 2006-2012 again.
“There was a confluence of so many talented players coming through, and the best hurling manager ever seen; perhaps the best hurling man that we have ever experienced was in charge.
“The way that team unified, and the amount of talent that came in when that team peaked, we’ll never see the likes of that again.
“I don’t think we’ll have a dicatorship like that from Tipperary. Their half-forward line isn’t good enough for that to happen, their midfield still has a few question marks about it.
“If teams start running at their defence… They did concede 2-20 in the All-Ireland final, and that should have been 4-20 – you cannot say they’re anything like that team from Kilkenny that was there for almost 10 years.”
The Premier may have their work cut out for them in the year ahead, as the draw has pitted them against Cork in the first round of Munster. The winner will then face Waterford in the semi-final.
Loughnane feels that a date with the Rebels won’t be an easy fixture for Tipp, as they have the ability to bounce back, and have added a high performance director to their ranks.
“I wouldn’t underestimate Cork. Now that Gary Keegan is in there with them. Any place this man has been, he has brought teams that have been very very far down, where standards were very low, and he has raised them to the very highest [level].”
Keegan spent six years with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association,
“I’ve always said about Cork, they’ve plenty of athletes, they’ve enough skill, but something has gone wrong with their mentality over the last number of years. He might be the man to change that. I wouldn’t underestimate them.”
Overall, it could be a frantic summer ahead, and one which Loughnane is relishing.
“I think the level of confidence in teams all over Ireland is way better than it was before.
“Now that Kilkenny’s aura of invincibility that they had so many years is gone.
“I think it would be a far more democratic championship in the next three or four years, and it will be a better championship because of that. There will be at least three or four teams that will be in with a chance of winning the All-Ireland. I’m really looking forward to 2017, I think it will be a great championship.”
Ger Loughnane was speaking to Pundit Arena at the launch of HERO in University College Cork.
HERO is an organisation set up in 2011 to provide funding for research projects and education in haematology initiated by university teaching hospitals in Cork. The charity supports research that significantly contributes to scientific knowledge on blood disorders and their treatment.
For further information or to donate to this worthy cause, visit hero-trust.ie