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Winners & Losers From The Opening Round Of National Hurling League Action

After the opening round of National Hurling League action, here we look at who will view the weekend positively and who will be going back to the drawing board. 

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Winners

Antrim

Even though the Saffrons lost, they did almost pull off the heist of the century. With seven minutes remaining they were leading the leggy looking Tribesmen and on course for a famous victory. 

Sadly they could not close the deal, as Galway introduced the cavalry. Sambo’s charges hurled with real intent here, and will be smacking their lips at the prospect of facing Dublin next week.

Offaly

There are signs the Offaly hurlers are ready to go to war. Their recent display against Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup hinted at green shoots. Normal service (of the agonising kind) were expected to be resumed in Croke Park on Saturday night. 

The Faithful were supposed to be appetisers on the Dublin GAA main course, but they summoned their inner Brian Whelahan, Johnny Pilkington and Michael Duignan in a display to warm the hearts of their long suffering supporters. 

Clare

Start as you mean to go on. The Banner made their intentions clear when naming a side that contained the likes of John Conlan, Tony Kelly and Colin Galvan. 

Shane O’Donnell worked his socks off and Cathal Malone was a revelation. David Reidy was another who looked back to his best while David Fitzgerald looked up for the battle. The Banner look to have awoken from their slumber.

Cork

They faced down a mighty challenge from Brian Cody’s Cats. In previous years with the game on the line against their old nemesis, they would have been found wanting. The new Cork are a different animal. 

Conor Lehane was at his brilliant best and he was closely followed by Seamus Harnedy. This was an important victory after the shock departure of Kieran Kingston. Onwards and upwards for the Rebels.

Wexford

They looked extremely sharp against KIlkenny in the Walsh Cup final and they showed no ill-effects of a bruising encounter here. 

Lee Chin was a towering presence, but it was David Dunne who caught the eye. Pacy and direct, he offers a new dimension to Davy Fitzgerald’s charges. They appear to fear no-one and could be dark horses for the title.

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Losers

Tipperary

Michael Ryan gave youth its fling, but found there is no substitute for experience. On a brighter note Cathal Barrett did look impressive in midfield. 

Ryan knows that a loss against Waterford will mean a must-win tie against a resurgent Wexford.

A number of his players are running out of lives, with the like of the highly-tried Jason Ford continuing to disappoint from open play. Worryingly, Tipperary do not appear to have unearthed any new players. Alan Flynn was the pick of the bunch here, but it’s further up the field the Premier are lacking.

KIlkenny

Kilkenny cannot buy a win at present. Had Wexford on the rack and were in with a real shout here heading into injury time. Like Tipperary, the question has to be posed, where have all the younger players gone? Is anybody really putting their hand up for the future? 

Cillian Buckley was immense as ever, likewise Padraig Walsh, but the supporting cast is simply no longer there. Paul Murphy and Colin Fennelly will return as will a fit Richie Hogan, but they look to be just plugging holes. 

Dublin

Pat Gilroy’s first foray into serious inter-county hurling fare was quite simply a disaster. Rudderless and leaderless, they were second best here by a country mile. 

The feelgood factor has quickly evaporated and the return of the Cuala brigade cannot come quick enough. Then again, we said that last year and look what happened.

Galway

Galway looked like they were still in full blown holiday mode. Even allowing for exotic breaks, this was as bad as returning All-Ireland champions could be. 

Smelled the coffee late on, but with bigger tests ahead they will need to be more aware of that rather large target on their back.

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