While the big boys were kept apart in this morning’s draw for the first round of the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers, that is not to say that these games will not be keenly anticipated by hurling folk around the country.
To recap on what came out of the hat at GAA HQ this morning, the draw will see Dublin take on Laois, Limerick will square off against Brian Cody’s wounded Cats, Waterford play Offaly while All Ireland champions, Tipperary will meet Westmeath.
Ger Cunningham’s Dubs are coming off the back of a relegation from Division 1 of the National Hurling League and a Leinster championship hammering at the hands of Galway. Although the Tribesmen are outright favourites for the All-Ireland and looked every bit of it in that dismantling of the Boys In Blue, Cunningham’s charges must drastically improve if they are to progress further in the championship.
Laois came out the right side of a thrilling tie with Carlow on Sunday in the preliminary round, winning by just a single point. They will be fearless faced with challenge of taking Dublin down, especially given the fact that they will come in as underdogs, with no pressure on them to take this scalp.
Kilkenny suffered back-to-back losses in the championship for the first time since Brian Cody took over in the dugout in 1998 when they were taken down by Wexford earlier this month. For that reason, they were probably the ones to avoid in this draw. Surely the mighty Cats won’t string three defeats in-a-row together? As everyone knows, Cody’s wounded Cats are the most dangerous type to face.
Limerick should therefore be expecting a backlash, and judging by their Munster semi-final performance in their loss to Clare, one would have to wonder how well equipped they are to cope with that.
Derek McGrath’s Waterford have come in for heavy criticism in the aftermath of their defeat to Cork in Munster, particularly for their playing style, insisting to adapt a sweeper. Matched up with Offaly in the back door, will we see the Déise alter their approach in an attempt to get their season up and running?
All Ireland champions Tipperary were another team stunned by the Rebel revival under Kieran Kingston in Munster. While the rumour mill spun out of control in the aftermath of that loss and All Star corner-back Cathal Barrett was kicked off the panel for a breach of discipline, we should expect the Premier to bounce back in this one and reclaim a spot at the top of the contenders list.
This is a team that were lauded far and wide up until their last two performances, the league final trouncing by Galway and the Munster quarter-final loss to Cork. While they haven’t defended a Liam MaCarthy Cup since 1965, in a wide open summer of hurling, a commanding display here could see them reemerge as a force to be reckoned with.
We now know where and when these fixtures will take place:
Saturday, July 1st
Kilkenny V Limerick, Nowlan Park, 7 p.m. (Live on Sky Sports)
Dublin V Laois, Parnell Park, 7 p.m.
Tipperary V Westmeath, Semple Stadium, 5 p.m.
Offaly V Waterford, O’Connor Park, Tullamore, 3 p.m.