With just five games to go in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, we take a look at the latest pecking order as the race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup turns for home.
1. Galway (no change)
The Tribesmen continued to impress in the Leinster final, as they upped it a gear in the second half to blow Wexford away with ease.
They hold a dynamic threat, and no longer rely on one game-winner, as Conor and Jospeh Cooney showed.
A solid spine of Daithí Burke and Gearóid McInerney give this Galway team as solid a foundation as there is in this country. Right now, they’re looking good to bridge a 29-year gap.
2. Cork (+1)
Not exactly a flash in the pan. The same justifications which saw them into third spot last time out could apply again here – established players finally stepping up, the injection of youth, as well as the puck-outs of Anthony Nash have the Rebel County dreaming.
How they deal with the five-week break will be crucial. Just three Munster champions reaching the All-Ireland finals in the last ten years is a big enough sample size to suggest that this break is a significant disadvantage.
3. Tipperary (+1)
Far away from the lights of live television on Saturday, Tipperary delivered a performance to tell the rest of Ireland that they are back to their best. While Dublin were undoubtedly poor, there was a pep back in the Premier step not seen since the League semi-final.
There is not much extra needed for the Premier to retain the Liam MacCarthy Cup, other than getting their mojo back.
With Seamus Callanan beginning to return to the form which has seen him perhaps wrongfully denied the Hurler of the Year award the last two seasons, the duo of John McGrath and Bubbles O’Dwyer tearing into defences, and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher back in the engine room, the Premier may well have awoken.
4. Wexford (-2)
The Yellowbellies were not the first team to receive a major setback after running into Galway this season, and they probably won’t be the last. However, it did show that Davy Fitzgerald’s side are quite a bit off the required level.
This shouldn’t dampen hopes in the Model County. They impressively bounced back from their League semi-final defeat to Tipp.
Judging by Saturday night, they have nothing to fear from Waterford in the quarter-final. Expect the Wexicans to make their way down the N25 to Páirc Uí Chaoimh in their thousands. Lee Chin and Co. could well rise to the occasion once again.
5. Waterford (+2)
Having finally gotten over their hoodoo against Kilkenny, the Déise are now looking to kick on and land the big one.
Jamie Barron, Austin Gleeson and Tadhg de Búrca were immense in Semple Stadium. However, the fact of the matter is that we saw slower and less intense levels of hurling in that game than we saw from Tipp or Galway in the last week.
Derek McGrath must change things up if they are to rise to the next level, and that means playing smarter hurling as far as letting the ball into the forwards is concerned.
6. Clare (-1)
The Banner were woefully disappointing on Sunday. They failed to trouble the Cork puck-outs, persisted in taking low-percentage shots, and lack a sufficient goal-threat.
Having said all of that, the game was very much in the balance heading down the final straight.
They will need to significantly raise their game if they are to have a chance against Tipperary.
7. Kilkenny (-1)
It’s an early summer exit for the Cats, and back to the drawing board. Is this the end of Kilkenny’s dominance? Absolutely not, as the Leinster minor/u-21 double this year attests to.
Nonetheless, the Cats were well off the pace in 2017. Relying on TJ Reid, too many players went missing all too frequently. However, credit must be given to their heart in fighting back from a seemingly impossible position in normal time against Waterford.
Questions now are raised whether Brian Cody will remain to rebuild yet another team.
8. Limerick (no change)
The Treaty went to Nowlan Park and showed signs that they were capable of scoring a huge upset, but some basic errors let them down.
They are thought to be a young team, but that is the case with several counties in the country. Limerick need to make a statement in the championship, and their clash with Kilkenny was the perfect opportunity to do so.
It will be a long wait to 2018 for the Shannon-siders.
9. Dublin (no change)
Any confidence built from their comprehensive win over Laois was quickly dashed, as they were truly demolished by Tipperary.
Finding a consistent goalkeeper continues to be an issue, and overall it was the darkest day for the Dublin senior hurlers since their loss to Antrim in 2010, or perhaps even further back to Westmeath in 2006.
Assuming Ger Cunningham is replaced, it is an appealing job for any manager. With scores of underage talent continuing to stream through, as well as some of the country’s finest hurlers likely to return to the set-up, the Dubs’s return to the top table could be swift.
10. Offaly (no change)
There wasn’t much to say following a hammering at the hands of Waterford. Despite beating Westmeath in the Leinster quarter-final, they were far from competitive after that, conceding 1-68 across two games against Galway and Waterford.
11. Westmeath (+2)
Heading down to Semple Stadium to take on Tipp was thought to be mission impossible for the Lake County, but they remained more than competitive for 50 minutes of the clash.
Of all the teams outside of the top nine, they seem to be making the most progress.
12. Laois (-1)
Had Eamonn Kelly headed to Parnell Park with a full hand, perhaps they would have made a better fist of challenging the Dubs in the qualifiers. However, four championship wins in 2017 is something to build upon, after they maintained their Division 1B status.
13. Carlow (-1)
Colm Bonnar’s charges had a free shot at Laois following an impressive Christy Ring Cup triumph. They lost a classic, but there is plenty to be optimistic about ahead of 2018.
14. Kerry (no change)
15. Meath (no change)
Make sure to check out the latest episode of The 16th Man podcast, where we review the Munster final, and much more!
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