Hurling supporters were given just cause for optimism of the spreading of the hurling gospel this weekend with some impressive performances by the ‘weaker counties’.
When glancing through this weekend’s fixtures, it would have been understandable to write Division 1B off as a boring line-up hurling.
However, in a great boost for followers of the sport, the underdogs rose to the occasion.
To analyse these performances, we’ll begin with looking at the first and most impressive of these showings.
Given the negative tone that has haunted Offaly hurling in recent times, not many would have predicted the result produced last night.
Though they entered the game as heavy favourites, Dublin were truly outclassed by their Leinster rivals from start to finish in Croke Park.
In an awesome display of long-range shooting, Offaly were flawless in a victory that is sure to create a buzz within the county.
The performances of Oisín Kelly and Colin Egan were extremely impressive. Perhaps a bigger boost for Kevin Martin’s side is that marquee players Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin played just one half each.
Having worried Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup, followed by last night’s victory, Offaly will enter next weekend’s clash with Limerick with zero fears, and rightfully so.
If you were shocked by Offaly’s victory, what Division 1B newcomers Antrim came so close to achieving may have tipped you over the edge.
The Saffrons faced the daunting first day out of going toe-to-toe with All-Ireland champions Galway.
In predictions for this game, there is a name for people who thought this would be close; liars.
However, the game went against everybody’s predictions and with just seven minutes left, Antrim found themselves level with the Tribesmen.
Now, admittedly, it’s highly unlikely Galway have much work put down at this point of the year, however, Antrim’s competitiveness is a huge encouragement.
With this performance under their belts, Sambo McNaughton’s side will face into next weekend’s clash with Dublin highly fancying their chances.
The one disappointment for the neutrals came in the Gaelic Grounds where Laois were defeated by ten points.
Limerick proved too strong for their opposition and ran out with an easy victory. Witnessing the strong performances of their rivals will give little cause for optimism.
However, the addition of two competitive counties in Offaly and Antrim would be of huge benefit to hurling in general.
Hopefully this can turn into consistent form throughout the rest of the spring.