It was a busy weekend in the All-Ireland hurling Championship. All in all, it was like an episode of Game of Thrones this weekend, with some pretenders to the throne annihilated in ruthless fashion as the big wheels laid bare their intentions for 2015.
Galway produced yet another an impressive performance, putting Laois to the sword on Saturday, Kilkenny showed they are as strong as they were last September, ending Wexford’s hopes of causing a surprise in Leinster and Tipperary managed to defeat Limerick in the Munster Championship for the first time since 2012.
Galway produced an impressive display against Dublin at the second time of asking in their Leinster quarter final, putting 5 goals past the Dubs to set up a semi-final appearance against a Laois side that had defeated Offaly. Galway had just managed to scrape past Laois on more than one occasion in the past few years, but they had no such problems at the weekend.
After Johnny Coen’s goal, Galway upped the gears and Cheddar Plunkett’s side were no match for them. Galway will now go into the Leinster final against Kilkenny knowing that victory could put them into a first All-Ireland semi-final since 2012 and if the Galway forwards can reproduce the scoring form that they have shown so far in the Championship, then they could well defeat the Cats.
Kilkenny, for their part, looked every bit as good as they did last year in their victory over Wexford, with Ger Aylward particularly impressive in attack for Brian Cody’s side. Kilkenny were strong in defense too, and with JJ Delaney the only starter from last year’s All-Ireland winning team that has since retired, any notion that Kilkenny wouldn’t be as strong this year as they have been in previous years was immediately dispelled.
Kilkenny went most of their League campaign without Ballyhale players TJ Reid, Michael Fennelly and new captain Joey Holden, which goes some way to explaining their poor League campaign, but this Kilkenny side still has plenty of experience. Wexford couldn’t deal with the Kilkenny full forward line of Aylward, TJ Reid and Eoin Larkin, scoring 4-8 from play and now, the Model County must regroup to face Jimmy Barry Murphy’s Cork side on July 4th.
If Galway are to defeat Kilkenny, they will learn from Wexford’s heavy defeat that the Kilkenny forwards can’t be given as much space, or they will be punished.
Last year’s beaten all Ireland finalists Tipperary finally managed a first Championship win over Limerick under Éamon O’Shea, and they did it in style too, with a 16 point win. Limerick had done well to hold on and defeat Clare in the Munster quarter-final after being reduced to 14 men in that game and to their credit, they fought on after conceding two first half goals to Seamus Callanan, forcing some good saves from Darren Gleeson before Shane Dowling made it a one point game at the 45 minute mark.
Tipp were brilliant in attack though and eager not to lose from a winning position to the Shannonsiders for the third year in a row, Tipperary killed off the game through some brilliant scores in attack. Limerick will face Westmeath next and should they overcome that test, they will still be in the mix for the All-Ireland and will still fancy their chances should they meet this Tipperary side later on in the summer. Tipperary though have given a clear indication of the skill they possess in attack and Waterford will need to be at their best to stop Callanan and John O’Dwyer. It’s also an indication of Tipp’s ability to kill off a game, a big weakness on a number of occasions in the last few years.
Big performances from the big teams, and from the evidence, better yet to come in this year’s Championship.