This weekend sees the opening round of the Allianz National Hurling League take place, and hurling fans will be treated to three exciting clashes in Division 1A. With this in mind, we take a look at six hurlers who will be eager to kickstart their season in style.
While the league will not be the number one priority of inter-county managers, for the players it can be the perfect opportunity to nail down a starting place come championship time.
Let’s take a look at six hurlers who will be keen to gain confidence from this spring’s campaign.
1. Cathal Barrett (Tipperary)
Back in the fray for Tipperary, Barrett’s summer was controversially halted early following disciplinary issues. His loss was felt as the Tipp full-back line struggled in the Holycross man’s absence.
This area of the pitch wasn’t Michael Ryan’s only issue last summer, however. Midfield also struggled and, interestingly, this is where Barrett is named for Sunday’s clash with Clare. This experiment will be well worth keeping an eye on this weekend.
Sunday marks the beginning of the Young Hurler of the Year’s quest to regain his starting jersey.
2. Stephen Bennett (Waterford)
While younger brother Shane has opted out of the Waterford panel this spring, it’s business as usual for Stephen.
One of the most exciting prospects to emerge from the talented pool of underage talent in the Déise in recent times, Bennett has been plagued with hip injuries since the age of 15. However, the former UL student’s eye for goal is clear to see for anybody who has witnessed him in action.
He has now benefitted from a couple of uninterrupted pre-seasons and will hope 2018 is the year he can finally display his talents to the hurling world.
3. Peter Duggan (Clare)
Knocking around the Clare panel since 2013, Duggan has shown that he’s got more than enough potential to make the breakthrough, yet for some reason it hasn’t quite fully happened just yet.
Sprung from the bench in Clare’s championship departure, the LIT hurler was impressive when introduced. Duggan has followed this up with some fine displays in this winter’s pre-season tournament.
Selected at full-forward for Sunday’s clash, the physical attacker will be hoping to build on previous displays and nail down the full-forward spot for the rest of the year.
4. Richie Reid (Kilkenny)
Now released from his goalkeeping duties, Richie Reid is a man Brian Cody will hope can solve some of his attacking problems in 2018.
Sent off in last weekend’s Walsh Cup final clash with Wexford, the Ballyhale Shamrocks man will hope to put this behind him. The younger brother of TJ had made fine displays until this point and offers a scoring threat that the Cats lacked in 2017.
They face Cork this weekend with Reid selected at centre-forward, which should see him face off with the equally inexperienced Tim O’Mahony. Both men will be eager to impress.
5. Eoin Cadogan (Cork)
Rebel hurling supporters will be excited to see the return of Douglas defender Eoin Cadogan this weekend. A starter with the hurlers from 2009 to 2012, Cadogan has focused solely on football since then.
The strength and conditioning coach, however, has shone in the Cork club championship over the past number of years and is rated by some as the best man-marker in the county. Selected at full-back, Cadogan will bring a ruthlessness that the Cork backline have lacked since his 2013 departure.
Cadogan’s first test looks set to be the towering Kilkenny full-forward Walter Walsh and we’re sure Cadogan is relishing the challenge.
6. Paudie Foley (Wexford)
Back once again for the Yellowbellies, Paudie Foley will be eager to regain his place in Davy Fitzgerald’s side. Foley opted out of the panel in 2017, missing out on a successful year.
A product of JJ Doyle’s successful Wexford under-21 sides, Foley will feature in Wexford’s half-back line having excelled so many times in the past. Hurling with DCU in this year’s Fitzgibbon Cup, Foley will be on a high following two excellent victories as they topped their group.
Wexford supporters will hope Foley can breeze back into inter-county hurling without any signs of rustiness. They, of course, face a clash with the Déise this weekend, which is never an easy task.