Tipp's new star, that crazy Croker tie, Canning's return - 5 weekend hurling league talking points

It was also a weekend that boosted Limerick’s promotion hopes as the Cats flirt with relegation

Tipperary's John McGrath (left) is fast making a name for himself
Tipperary's John McGrath (left) is fast making a name for himself
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

1. A new star is born in Tipperary

John McGrath is Tipperary’s former dual All-Ireland minor medallist now making waves as a senior intercounty hurler. McGrath scored two points and was involved in both Tipp goals on his debut against Galway and at Cusack Park yesterday, he shot five fine points from play as the Premier County heaped further relegation woe on hosts Clare.

It was a good day for the McGrath siblings as Noel scored Tipp’s first goal in Ennis. John came off with four minutes remaining and University of Limerick manager Brian Lohan is sweating on his availability for the Fitzgibbon Cup final on Wednesday evening. McGrath, one of the Loughmore-Castleiney clan, has enjoyed a productive Fitzgibbon campaign to date and he was exceptional in the first half of the drawn final against WIT.

2. What the hell was that at Croke Park on Saturday? 

Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea strayed slightly off topic following yesterday’s victory over Clare to discuss that wacky Cork-Dublin tie at GAA HQ on Saturday evening. “You saw a League match on Saturday night between Dublin and Cork – that was a strange League match.” That it was as the rampant Rebels bagged 21 of their 34 points in the first half alone to stun the previously unbeaten hosts.

Dublin collected just four points in the opening 33 minutes and by then, any single or accumulator dockets listing Ger Cunningham’s Sky Blues were torn up. Cork boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy got one over on his St Finbarr’s clubmate Cunnnigham and was quick to praise man-of-the-match Luke O’Farrell’s impact afterwards. O’Farrell was left kicking his heels for much of last season but has been in excellent form this year, netting goals against Kilkenny and Clare and four points from play on Saturday.

How Dublin react against Clare next weekend will make for interesting viewing but free-scoring Cork have well and truly banished the memories of that opening day defeat against depleted Kilkenny.

Patrick Horgan Cork hitman Patrick Horgan helped himself to 14 points against Dublin at Croke Park Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

3. Champions Kilkenny now flirting with relegation

We dared to suggest before the competition began that Kilkenny might find themselves in a relegation scrap – before egg was quickly wiped from face when the Cats went and beat Cork away from home in their opening fixture. But successive defeats against Dublin have left Brian Cody’s Noresiders in the bottom two and as things stand, on course for a relegation playoff shootout with Clare.

Kilkenny’s two remaining games are difficult assignments. They travel to Tipperary next Sunday for a repeat of last year’s League and All-Ireland finals before concluding the group stages with a home fixture against Clare, a game that could be a dress rehearsal for a winner-takes-all relegation shootout.

Cody may call upon his some of his Ballyhale stars following next week’s All-Ireland club final for a potential SOS assignment but who would back against Kilkenny shocking Tipp next weekend and going on to claim a quarter-final place?

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4. Are Limerick finally on course for promotion? 

Now in their fifth season outside of hurling’s top tier, Limerick are surely due a turn in League fortune. Having drawn at home to Waterford on the opening night, the Shannonsiders got back in the groove with victory over Antrim but yesterday’s epic success in Wexford could be the one that finally gets them over the line.

Waterford remain top on scoring difference and the table is beautifully poised ahead of the remaining two rounds of fixtures. Wexford’s agonising one-point defeat could well have scuppered their promotion hopes while Limerick have winnable home fixtures left against Offaly and Laois.

Not even two victories from their remaining two games might be enough for Wexford now as the final picture will be revealed on the final day. Waterford’s fate is in their own hands. Win against Antrim next Sunday and away to Wexford on March 22 and they’re back up to Division 1A. But if the Déise slip up, Limerick are primed to take full advantage.

TJ Ryan Limerick boss TJ Ryan has his eyes fixed on promotion from Division 1B Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO

5. Joe Canning’s return a major fillip for Galway

Joe Canning’s return to action on Sunday was greeted warmly by Galway fans in Salthill. And the Portumna superstar was quickly making up for lost time as he shot four second half points following his introduction as the Tribesmen boosted their quarter-final credentials with victory over Kilkenny.

Jason Flynn starred once again for the Tribesmen but Canning remains Galway’s talisman. His surprise return came ahead of schedule and the ace forward appeared to suffer no ill-effects of the broken finger sustained against Offaly in January.

Galway are motoring along steadily under the radar thus far in 2015. Having collected the Walsh Cup without too much fanfare, the Westerners have won two of their three League fixtures to date. Even though they lost on the road against Tipperary, there was enough in a spirited second half display to suggest that Galway will be contenders for the big prizes again.

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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