With all teams up and running in the race for the Liam McCarthy Cup, we take a look at the latest pecking order in hurling.
1. Galway (no change)
The Tribesmen are All-Ireland favourites, and justifiably so after the demolitions of Dublin and Offaly. The men in maroon have a physicality which is telling, while clutch players such as Daithí Burke, David Burke and Joe Canning are capable of winning the game on their own.
All indications point to this Galway team being far superior to any previous edition in recent years. Despite all the hype, they kept calm and clinically put Dublin to the sword.
They’ve backed up the hype, and now have two chances to reach an All-Ireland semi-final.
2. Wexford (+1)
The Yellowbellies are in dreamland. There were question marks over whether they peaked in the League.
Boy did they prove their doubters wrong!
In Lee Chin, they have arguably the form hurler in Ireland at present, while the rest of the team are working in unison.
Davy has them well drilled. We would say they’re unlikely to get over the next hurdle, but how many times have we said that so far this year?
3. Cork (+5)
The Rebels are back. What Kieran Kingston has succeeded in doing is not only blooding in new talent, but also getting the best out of those who had receded in recent years. Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane and Patrick Horgan are now three of the most dangerous forwards in the game, while Mark Coleman has been the find of the season.
The Rebels have their tails up, and that is when they’re most dangerous.
4. Tipperary (-2)
Crisis in the Premier? Not quite.
Two months ago, they were thought to be invincible. A harrowing loss to Galway was certainly a set-back, but alarm bells should not be ringing after falling to Cork. This Rebel outfit have backed it up, and look the real deal.
Are Tipp capable of mounting an assault on the All-Ireland through the back door? You bet it.
5. Clare (+1)
The Banner didn’t do a huge amount wrong in their victory over Limerick, but they were far from spectacular.
They have a dynamic forward line, that can hurt teams with goals, but need to cut out some sloppy errors.
Tony Kelly will need to have a bigger impact if Clare are to win a first Munster title since 1998.
6. Kilkenny (-2)
Wexford are being hugely praised, but the Cats were only three points behind their neighbours at the death.
However, there are serious warning signs for Brian Cody. The lack of depth throughout the side is a huge cause for concern, and is not an easy fix.
7. Waterford (-2)
The Déise were flat yesterday, and broader questions must be raised about their set-up heading into the qualifiers.
Having come so close to reaching an All-Ireland final last summer, this is a huge setback.
This is not the end of their system, as Derek McGrath showed huge flexibility when bamboozling Brian Cody last August.
Stephen O’Keeffe, Jamie Barron and Maurice Shanahan were fantastic yesterday, but the collective performance must rise significantly.
8. Limerick (-1)
The Treaty were woeful in their loss to Clare, but the young generation are showing signs of getting up to speed at the senior grade.
However, they will need to gel quickly if they are to avoid an early exit.
9. Dublin (no change)
The Boys in Blue were dreadful in their tame performance against Galway, and they have receded every year since 2013.
It’s is difficult to fathom the Dubs picking it up in the qualifiers and beating a team of consequence, as Ger Cunningham enters what is likely to be the last month of his tenure in the capital.
10. Offaly (no change)
The Faithful got a win over Westmeath, but the prize was a semi-final date with Galway, where they were hammered.
Year on year, they’re becoming less competitive.
11. Laois (no change)
The O’Moore County got through the qualifying group with relative ease, but ran into a rampant Wexford side in the All-Ireland quarter-final. After putting it up to the Yellowbellies in the League, Laois were well off the pace.
12. Carlow (new entry)
Carlow blew Antrim away in the Christy Ring Cup final, and now head for the qualifiers where they will face Laois.
James Doyle scored four goals in the Croke Park decider, and Colm Bonner will be quietly confident that his side can shock Laois.
13. Westmeath (-1)
Losing to Offaly was a blow, but the Lake County continue to efficiently navigate the Leinster Championship round-robin.
Another respectable showing in the qualifiers is the goal here.
14. Kerry (-1)
The Kingdom retained their Liam McCarthy status, but failed to reach the Leinster Championship proper. All in all, it has been a sideways move from 2016 as far as Championship is concerned.
15. Meath (-1)
Christy Ring Cup for Meath in 2017, after what was a promising campaign, peaking with their win over Kerry.