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6 talking points after yesterday's hurling league action

Plenty to debate after a weekend where Tipperary, Clare, Kilkenny, Galway and Dublin claimed victories.

Seamus Callanan and James Woodlock celebrate in Thurles yesterday.
Seamus Callanan and James Woodlock celebrate in Thurles yesterday.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

1. Tipperary turn a corner

Last Sunday before throw-in in Thurles, Tipperary’s supporters were fretting over the prospect of relegation. It was a close shave as they just secured the three-point win but emboldened by that success, they went on to seize the opportunity yesterday against Cork. Have they turned a corner?

Two successive wins helps brighten the outlook for Eamonn O’Shea. They kept the scoreboard ticking over in style yesterday as they amassed 3-25 with John O’Dwyer demonstrating his burgeoning talent with 1-7 while Denis Maher and Niall O’Meara both encouragingly found the net.

Conceding four goals at the other end is something of a concern though, that’s 16 goals they’ve shipped this spring. But a quarter-final victory leaves Tipperary a game away from reaching a second successive league decider. That’s a scenario which seemed wholly unlikely recently.

2. Laois get all the plaudits

Underdogs generally are not too fond of being showered with praise in the wake of brave displays when they run overwhelming favourites close before ultimately suffering defeat. The Laois hurlers have endured a fair share of those days recently – last year’s Leinster championship tie against Galway, the Division 1B ties against Cork and Limerick of late and then yesterday’s quarter-final against Clare.

But while there’s disappointment in being beaten, Laois are making undeniable progress with more persuasive evidence offered yesterday. They fell short by four points yet battled on manfully with 14 men for much of the game and their sweeper system frustrated Clare. They’ve plenty to build on.

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

3. Kilkenny showing their strength in spring

18 goals in six games. 111 points in the same period. An average of 3-18 per game. Four victories including the two most recent by margins of 20 and 14 points respectively. A place booked in the league semi-finals and a game away from another league decider.

Those statistics show that it hasn’t been a bad spring for Kilkenny with plenty signs that they are limbering up for a strong summer assault. Their defeat against Clare was narrow in a pulsating clash which leaves the St Patrick’s weekend performance against Dublin as the major blip. Win the semi-final against Galway and Brian Cody will be preparing for his tenth league final as Kilkenny boss.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

4. Nash does his talking on the pitch

Anthony Nash’s freetaking has been placed under the microscope for a considerable amount of time now with the intense debates on the technique dragging on interminably. The Cork goalkeeper has got on with his hurling this spring but has been a peripheral figure in the scoring stakes, save for a brace of points for Munster in February’s interprovincial hurling semi-final.

It was interesting last Sunday against Wexford, that it was Patrick Horgan who sized up a 20-yard first-half free for Cork before slamming it to the net. But yesterday Nash was back taking centre stage and walloping home a first-half goal. The debate may rumble on yet as long as it’s still allowed, the Cork goalkeeper has a lethal weapon at his disposal for his team.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Limerick’s concerns grow

It was interesting to see that the four Division 1B teams all lost out in yesterday’s quarter-final action. Cork and Laois will take a lot from their games as they ran Tipperary and Clare close while Wexford fought hard for long stages against Kilkenny.

The most striking reversal was suffered by Limerick as they were defeated by eight points by Galway. Joint manager TJ Ryan was straight up in his post-match assessment that his team ‘were off the pace’. Given they were 2013 Munster champions looking to push on in 2014, the league hasn’t offered a great springboard.

There have been mitigating factors like Na Piarsaigh’s All-Ireland club involvement and injuries to key men like Seamus Hickey and Declan Hannon. But two months out from the championship opener against Tipperary, there’s plenty scope for improvement.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

6. Dublin reap the greatest dividend of the day

Walsh Park was arguably the venue where there was most at stake yesterday and it was Dublin who reaped the greatest dividend. Winning the relegation final ensures their sojourn in Division 1A is not brief and ensures a reversal in fortune as they were unlucky to lose out on a quarter-final place the previous week. A penchant for goals proved key in arresting a luckless league run on Deise soil.

For Waterford, it represents an early setback for manager Derek McGrath and his developing team. There’ll be acute disappointment at how their campaign turned considering they had two wins from three on the evening of March 9th. But the relegation fallout is something to contend with next year, for now they must shift their focus to the summer.

 

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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