As the temperature rises and we roll into July, the hurling championship is in full swing. We have two mouth-watering provincial finals on the horizon, as well as a couple of heavyweight bouts in the qualifiers. The wow factor of 2013 meant that this season would have an awful lot to live up to following one of the most evenly contested championships in recent years. As of now, 2014 has not disappointed, but what would people remember if it ended now?
Priceless Free – takers
While most games have been open, end-to-end affairs, so many have ultimately boiled down to scores from placed balls. The performances of Patrick Horgan, Shane Dowling and T.J. Reid to name a few, have all grabbed the headlines as a result of their exquisite conversion rates.
The games has become faster in recent years and the need to stop the opposition has resulted in fouls around midfield becoming more common. Anything from 100m in is considered scorable these days, and an accurate dead ball man has proved a necessity to a county’s success this year.
New Counties on the block
Ten years ago there was really only eight counties properly competing in the hurling championship – the five in Munster, Kilkenny, Wexford and Galway. Furthermore, only two or three had a realistic chance of going all the way. Since then Dublin, Limerick, and Clare obviously, have emerged as a real force in the last two to three years, stepping into the company of Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary.
More recently counties like Laois, Antrim, and Offaly have stood up to the championship mark. We are in a situation this year where roughly six teams will feel will feel like they can scale the steps of the Hogan stand in September and we are much better off for the rise in standard across the country.
The Nash Rule
Probably the most controversial topic in hurling in the last few years, Anthony Nash’s free taking style is no more. For safety reasons, his high jab and run up are a thing of the past after Waterford ‘keeper Stephen O’Keeffe charged out and met the ball just after it was struck.
It means that for the rest of the championship, free takers have to rethink their style. However, on what we’ve seen so far since the rule was implemented, a reduction in goals being scored is not going to be an issue, thankfully.
Reputation’s mean nothing
So far in Munster we’ve seen Limerick defeat Tipperary and Cork defeat Waterford and Clare. This means that two division 1B sides will contest the Munster Hurling Final. Limerick outmanoeuvred Tipperary and eventually finished them off in style.
A hugely impressive Laois won fans all over the country with their gutsy performances. Waterford’s heroic display almost got them over the line against Cork. Galway’s defiance in the face of defeat was evident in their comeback against Kilkenny. Cork in turn simply wanted it more against Clare. Teams will not lie down; ‘’excuse me’’ hurling has been almost non-existent and it has made for some cracking showdowns this year.
John Ivory, Pundit Arena.