The 2017 National Hurling League is consigned to history, as the Championship kicked off with two games in the Leinster preliminary rounds.
We take a look at the pecking order as the big guns now fully turn their focus to the summer.
1. Galway (+1)
We have new leaders, and rightly so. Everything clicked for the Tribesmen yesterday.
They came with a game-plan and implemented it to perfection. This Tipp team are built upon their half-back line domination, and ball-winners in the half-forward line.
There were so many stars from this Galway performance, it’s impossible to pick one stand-out.
Daithí Burke, Aidan Harte and Padraig Mannion kept the ball out wide and limited the Premier attack to scraps, while Joe Canning and Jason Flynn drove from the front.
One point Mícheál Donoghue must take away from yesterday is the wasteful shooting. 11 wides, along with several efforts dropping short particularly in the first half, makes for grim reading.
However, it was down to poor decisions rather than poor shooting. They were simply taking the wrong option outside the 65. Letting the ball into Cathal Mannion, Conor Whelan and Niall Burke would have been a better use of possession.
2. Tipperary (-1)
Tipp were hammered.
Good, we’ve got that out of the way. Sunday was an off-day for Tipp. It’s not as if there were underlying failings that were exposed. Some basic cornerstones of the side failed to function. Michael Cahill did not perform, their half-back line did not enjoy the usual dominance, while the absence of Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher meant they lacked ball-winners in the half-forward line, as Dan McCormack was subdued.
With four weeks to go until the Cork game, they have time to get things right. As the players return to their clubs for the opening rounds of the County Championship, Michael Ryan will have a lot to mull over.
However, all the shortcomings appear fixable. The general consensus is that yesterday was a poor result for the Rebels, as they will be facing a backlash.
3. Wexford (no change)
4. Kilkenny (no change)
5. Waterford (no change)
6. Clare (no change)
7. Limerick (no change)
8. Cork (no change)
9. Dublin (no change)
10. Offaly (no change)
11. Laois (no change)
The O’Moore County didn’t have much time to sit around and admire their survival in Division 1B. It was a tight affair against Westmeath yesterday. Stephen Maher, Aaron Dunphy and Ross King led the line as they kicked on.
It was a disappointing loss for the Lake County, but they must refocus. Laois are generally perceived as the strongest side in the group, so a three-point loss in Portlaoise is by no means a disgrace. However, to replicate the last two years and reach a Leinster quarter-final, Westmeath must get back to winning ways against Kerry next week.
Exciting times for Meath hurling. Buoyed by their Christy Ring Cup and u21 B All-Ireland titles in 2016, the Royals took to the Leinster Championship with not much expected of them.
A deserved win over Kerry sets them up nicely. With Laois to come to Navan next week and a trip to Westmeath in the third game, one more win should see them through to a Leinster quarter-final.
The format of the Leinster round robin group means that there can be a fine line between qualifying for a quarter-final and relegation to the Christy Ring Cup. Yesterday’s defeat to Meath is a huge blow for the Kingdom.
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