John Ivory is here to dish out the first of our PA Report Cards, grading each team’s performances during this year’s All Ireland Hurling Championship. First under the microscope are Cork, Limerick and Clare.
It will be tough for Cork’s faithful to get the sour taste of last Sunday’s semi-final defeat to Tipperary out of their mouths, but once they do, they will remember a relatively successful year under Jimmy Barry Murphy.
The Rebels were held by a plucky Waterford in May, but dealt with them comprehensively in the replay, and beat Clare in an upset to reach the Munster decider.
Now this young team has a first medal in their pockets following their Munster triumph against neighbours Limerick. The way in which Tipperary dismantled them was worrying, but all round, a good year for the Rebel county, where they also unearthed a few top prospects in Alan Cadogan and Aidan Walsh.
Limerick took another small step forward this year in their development under TJ Ryan. They are still young and having this team perform well in Croke Park will be a relief to the management.
Limerick spoiled Tipperary’s party in Thurles, and fell short in the Munster final to Cork. They emphatically steamrolled Wexford on their way to HQ in the quarter finals.
Their rain-soaked encounter with Kilkenny will go down as one of the most exciting games in recent memory.
Although they won nothing, they general vibe will be that nothing was lost this year, and that this team will be around next year again. They have achieved a level of consistency they would love to continue into 2015.
2014 was definitely a case of ‘’second season syndrome’’ for most involved with Clare. Experts everywhere gave them every chance to show what they could do, until, eventually, they were knocked out.
The Banner never got going against Cork and found themselves up against Wexford in the qualifiers. In fairness to Davy Fitzgerald’s charges they showed the mark of champions by never giving up and salvaging a draw.
However, when everyone thought all of their cobwebs were gone, Wexford held on to claim the scalp of the year and eliminate the All Ireland holders from the 2014 campaign.
Clare did not become a bad team overnight, and their young team will be back. However, 2014 was one to forget for Davy Fitzgerald and his squad.
John Ivory, Pundit Arena.