This weekend sees four big hurling qualifers take place in hurling’s first big ‘knock out’ weekend of 2016. This week Thursday’s Top 10 looks at the 10 best hurling qualifier matches since their introduction in 2002.
10. Clare 4-14 Waterford 0-21 – 2005
This one a few games from the old group staged qualifier system where every team was guaranteed three matches, but the big winning margins and low quality of games remained. This was a great game where winner took all. Goals win matches was the order of the day as Alan Marhkam, Tony Griffin and Diarmuid McMahon beat a John Mullane inspired Waterford.
9. Tipperary 2-16 Cork 1-18 – 2007
This gets in as an upset as much as anything. Tipp were in a potential crisis under Babs Keating where Brendan Cummins was dropped and Eoin Kelly was injured on top of losing a triliogy to Limerick. Cork lost narrowly to a very good Waterford side and were expected to easily dispose of Tipp. But Willie Ryan filled the void left vacant by Kelly has Tipp caused a big shock.
8. Wexford 2-25 Clare 2-22 (AET) – 2014
Another massive upset. Clare were reigning All-Ireland champions and fell to Cork in Munster. Wexford fell to Dublin in Leinster and everybody expected Clare to march on. Wexford caused a big upset by getting a deserved draw in Ennis. It was back to Wexford park for a replay where Wexford came through after extra time.
7. Cork 2-19 Tipperary 1-16 – 2004
Killarney was the destination for this qualifier in 2004 after Waterford had knocked both sides out of the Munster championship at different stages. A massive crowd descended on Killarney where throw-in was delayed due to huge traffic and crowd congestion. It took second-half goals from Timmy McCarthy and Niall McCarthy for Cork to see of the Tipp challenge and kick-start their run to the All-Ireland title.
6. Clare 1-16 Dublin 0-16 – 2012
This was such a big game for both sides. A young Clare side faced an up and coming Dublin side in a knock-out game. Dublin wanted to atone for their embarrassment against Kilkenny and Clare were desperate to prolong their summer and get more games for their new breed of talent. A tight game commenced until debutant, Tony Kelly, lined up a 21 yard free and hit the net. That goal was the difference and Clare yeahoo’d aloud as the final whistle blew.
5. Kilkenny 0-20 Tipperary 1-14 – 2013
This was possibly the biggest occasion hurling has seen since the introduction of the back-door as both favourites found themselves out of provincial action at the first attempt and the back-door pitted both against each other. This was huge. Crowds arrived about an hour before throw-in. It was a good game, but stakes were so high it was tense.
An incredible JJ Delaney block from Eoin Kelly denied the Premier a second goal early in the second-half. From that point on, Kilkenny gained momentum and got over the line with three points to spare.
4. Tipperary 3-25 Galway 4-13 – 2014
Lightning struck twice for Tipperary and they found themselves in the same situation as the previous year. A loss to Limerick saw them into the qualifiers. They awaited the losers of Kilkenny and Galway, this time it was the Tribesmen in Thurles. It was tight until two Jonathan Glynn goals put Galway six points ahead. A potential Tipp hurling crisis awaited.
But Padraic Maher to centre-back, goals from Seamus Callanan and a few vital points from Lar Corbett saw Tipp prevail and kill the crisis in a cracking championship game.
3. Limerick 3-18 Clare 1-20 – 2012
This was another cracking championship game. Two young teams met in a knock-out game and provided a great spectacle. Clare unleashed players like Aaron Cunningham and Colm Galvin on top of Tony Kelly but they could stop Limerick getting off to a blistering start with goals from Wayne McNamara and Seanie Tobin.
A third goal from Declan Hannon looked to give them breathing space but Clare held in with some great point taking and a late Tony Kelly goal from a free made for a tense finish. But Limerick held on to win a brilliant game of hurling.
2. Wexford 3-15 Waterford 2-15 – 2014
This has been one of the finest occasions the hurling championship has seen in a while. A traditional minnow finally looked to be making a potential to return to the big time. They beat the All-Ireland champions, then a packed out Nowlan Park saw Wexford face Waterford.
A great game unfolded that went right to the death. Wexford won by a single goal and celebrated jubilantly at the end. This game gave hope to a potential great new era of hurling that has taken a massive back seat since then. While it may not have had the desired effects people felt it would have at the time, it was still a great game and a great occasion.
1. Cork 0-23 Galway 2-15 – 2008
This was a game that had everything. A Cork side that mixed opinion, some felt they were All-Ireland contenders while others thought they were on their last legs. Galway had a new man on the scene, a man by the name of Joe Canning and this game led many to feel hurling’s new superstar had arrived. Canning scored 2-12 that day, a variety of scores where he literally almost beat Cork on his own.
His penalty before half-time followed from Donal Óg Cusack’s dismissal for a second yellow card. Cork were trailing 2-05 to 0-09 at half-time and faced a second half with 14 men. They went onto produce a phenomenal half and despites Canning’s heroics, won the game by two points. It was a real classic championship game.
So that concludes, this week’s Thursday Top 10. Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.