The highly-anticipated hurling championship gets underway this weekend with a number of massive clashes in Munster and Leinster.
As well as the obvious ‘who will lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup?’, there are plenty of questions yet to be answered over what we hope will be an exciting summer.
Ahead of all the action, Pundit Arena’s GAA journalists Marisa Kennedy and Michael Corry have outlined their predictions for the 2019 All Ireland Hurling Championship.
You can read their Football Championship predictions here.
1. Munster Champions
Marisa Kennedy: I think this could be the year that Clare go one step further and win the provincial title. They have uncovered decent, young talent in the league in the likes of Diarmuid Ryan and Shane Golden and both Cork and Tipperary have to travel to Cusack Park this year where Clare will be confident of wins.
Michael Corry: Limerick have looked like a force to be reckoned with so far in 2019 backing up their All-Ireland win with an Allianz League title. I fancy them to make a clean sweep at take home Munster this year. Strong across the board but their half-forward division in particular I think can power them to glory.
2. Leinster Champions
MK: I think Wexford could be the surprise victors in Leinster this year. They are going into the championship completely under the radar and will fancy their chances against a weakened Kilkenny in Wexford Park. Davy Fitzgerald will not want his side to exit the competition like they did last year.
MC: Never write off the Cats. A lot of people are going against Kilkenny this season and that’s fair enough considering the injuries they have. Eoin Murphy’s absence, in particular, is huge but I have a feeling there is a siege mentality building in the hurling stronghold, especially considering Ballyhale Shamrock’s All Ireland win.
3. Joe McDonagh Champions
MK: It’s hard to look past Laois for the Joe McDonagh crown this year given they progressed to the league quarter-finals. Ross King’s return will provide a major boost for the county and with Offaly hurling in disarray, they will look to get an early win under their belt this weekend.
MC: Call it a northern bias but I am tipping Antrim to make the leap back into hurling’s top-tier in 2019. Tough task overcoming Laois, Offaly and a Kerry side that have already defeated them this year but they have it in them to go all the way.
4. All Ireland Finalists
MK: I imagine it will be another Limerick v Galway All Ireland final if Joe Canning returns in time to guide the Tribesmen to the decider.
MC: A league final repeat – Limerick v Waterford.
5. All Ireland Champions
MK: Limerick are the obvious choice for All Ireland champions this year. They have given us no reason to suggest they will stutter at any stage and their squad is stronger than it was in 2018. Their toughest task will be getting out of Munster and if they can do that, it should be plain-sailing in the All Ireland series.
MC: Hard to look past the Treaty men on the basis of what we’ve seen so far. At the minute it is Limerick’s world and we are all just living in it.
6. Hurler of the Year
MK: Going off form in the league, I’d imagine Aaron Gillane will be the Hurler of the Year. He has added a lethal goal-scoring element to his game this year. Physically, he seems much stronger and was almost unmarkable throughout the league.
MC: What she said! Gillane is the form player in the country and I expect him to carry that over into this year’s championship campaign.
7. Young Hurler of the Year
MK: I’m expecting Diarmuid Ryan to shine throughout the championship for Clare and if they progress to the latter stages of the competition, his name will be in the mix for the award.
MC: Adrian Mullen was in sparkling form for Ballyhale Shamrocks all year. He’s in with Kilkenny this year and he can break into the first XV expect a fine season from the youngster.
8. Major Talking Point
MK: I’m looking forward to seeing how Galway cope without Joe Canning in the Leinster Championship. When he went off against Waterford in the league semi-final, there was no one to step up into that leadership role and drag them through. It’ll be interesting to see who takes it on.
MC: Mattie Kenny is finally in with the Dublin hurlers and they’ve had a couple of strong showings throughout their league campaign. It will be interesting to see what dent they can make in the championship.