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Dublin: 15 °C Sunday 26 May, 2019

5 talking points from the All-Ireland hurling qualifier round 1 draw

There’s plenty at stake in the four upcoming clashes.

1. One of the big guns will bite the dust

The clash of Cork and Wexford is the stand-out fixture from this morning’s pairings.

The counties will do battle in championship hurling for the first time since 2012 and for one of them, the 2015 season will come to a premature end.

Cork were All-Ireland finalists two years ago and won the 2014 Munster title before contesting an All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary.

Source: MarcasOCallanain/YouTube

But the Rebels could be out after losing two games in championship 2015 if they come a cropper at Innovate Wexford Park.

For the hosts, defeat is also unthinkable following progress to last year’s All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Both teams are attempting to pick themselves up following crushing provincial exits but the qualifier route provides a potential road to redemption.

2. Clare look to recreate the qualifier magic of 2013

Clare’s march to All-Ireland glory through the back door two years ago was one of the great hurling stories of recent times.

Privately, Davy Fitzgerald will be rubbing his hands at the prospect of meeting Offaly, who suffered a demoralising Leinster championship defeat against Laois.

When Clare began their glorious qualifier campaign of 2013, they kicked off with a home slaughtering of Laois.

15 players got on the scoresheet and the only starting outfield player who didn’t, Domhnall O’Donovan, would have a big say later in the campaign.

Source: MarcasOCallanain/YouTube

Offaly’s visit to Cusack Park will also bring together two of the most famous hurling names from the last 25 years, namely rival bosses Davy Fitzgerald and Brian Whelahan.

Both are All-Ireland winning players and Fitzgerald masterminded Liam MacCarthy Cup glory two years ago.

Unfortunately, Offaly seem further away than they’ve ever been to the Hogan Stand steps in September.

When Clare and Offaly last met in championship hurling, in 2006, a nine-point victory for the Banner men marked the end of Whelahan’s intercounty playing career.

3. Two sides that have suffered at Galway’s hands come face to face

33 points was the aggregate margin that separated Galway from Dublin and Laois in the Leinster championship.

Dublin fared slightly better, losing by 13 in a Tullamore replay, before Laois suffered a dreadful hammering last Saturday at O’Connor Park.

Source: hockeyhurlingshinty5/YouTube

A straight line of form would suggest something along the lines of a six or seven-point victory for Dublin against Laois at O’Moore Park but this is a tricky assignment for the Sky Blues.

Their status as a Division 1 outfit, and a strong one at that, counts for a lot and it’s highly unlikely that a pretty seasoned bunch of championship players will slip up against Cheddar Plunkett’s charges.

If you’re looking for a shock, you won’t find one here but what is certain is that Laois should be far more competitive and look to take the game to their opponents, rather that operating with a packed defence.

Dublin dished out a 22-point hammering to Laois in the 2012 Leinster championship.

4. Limerick have the perfect chance to bounce back

Westmeath in round 1 presents Limerick with the perfect opportunity to get the show back on the road after Sunday’s mauling against Tipperary.

Westmeath, with all due respect, will struggle to compete with the Shannonsiders and a comfortable victory is anticipated for the visitors.

Away from home, Limerick can continue the soul-searching process that’s underway after Tipp inflicted major damage on a team that contested the last two All-Ireland semi-finals.

Limerick will still believe that they can launch a Liam MacCarthy Cup quest through the back door and it’s been left wide open for them with this pairing.

While at the same time doing the necessary against the Lake County, Limerick boss TJ Ryan can still experiment and work on a gameplan required to compete with the big boys again.

Tipp’s clever movement and lethal finishing opened up the Limerick defence in alarming fashion on Sunday and defence is an area that needs urgent work.

A return to the kind of aggression levels that epitomised Limerick in 2014 would do them no harm either.

Source: hockeyhurlingshinty5/YouTube

5. So who’ll be left standing after round 1?

We’re going to stick our necks out and plump for Dublin, Limerick, Clare and Cork to emerge with victories.

The first three counties named should come through their respective clashes with relative ease, leaving Cork and Wexford to battle it out in what’s expected to be a tight affair.

It remains to be seen whether or not Jack Guiney will return to the Wexford camp following his recent axeing but the Slaneysiders could badly do with more creativity in attack.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Liam Dunne We'll meet again: Wexford boss Liam Dunne and Cork's Jimmy Barry-Murphy. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If the Rebels have Lorcán McLoughlin and Seamus Harnedy back fit, they have a distinct edge and when the sides met in the Allianz League quarter-finals, Cork came from six points down at half-time to win by four.

Boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy is expected to shuffle his pack and deploying Patrick Horgan in a deeper-lying role up front could provide the spark to ignite the Glen Rovers star’s missing form.

It looks like a close one but Cork badly need a win as defeat would signal the end of the road for JBM as boss. The same applies to Dunne in Wexford and the stakes couldn’t be much higher.

Who do you think will emerge from the four qualifiers to prolong their championship season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below…

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