Evan Treacy/INPHO Tipperary and Cork enter the year with new management teams in place.
Tipp out to bounce back, Cats' new era: Allianz Hurling Leagues talking points
As the Allianz Hurling Leagues get underway this weekend, we look at five of the main talking points.

INTER-COUNTY HURLING returns in earnest this weekend, as the Allianz Hurling Leagues kick into gear.

With a host of new managers in the top tier, there is no shortage of intrigue around the action over the coming weeks.

1. Tipperary out to bounce back

The Premier County are looking to put a disappointing 2022 firmly in the rear-view mirror.

In truth, Colm Bonnar and Tipp were on the back foot right from the off last year, after a shock defeat to Kerry in the Munster Hurling League. A fourth-place finish in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling Leagues failed to rescue momentum, before a disastrous Munster Championship in which they lost their four games by a combined 31 points.

Liam Cahill will know the importance of Tipp hitting the ground running, as they turn over a new leaf. Having worked with the bulk of the younger players in the panel, guiding the county to U21 and U20 All-Ireland titles, the new boss will know the potential in this group.

They host Laois this weekend, before away trips to Kilkenny and Dublin. Tipperary are a side who would benefit greatly from an Allianz Hurling League title, one suspects.

liam-cahill Evan Treacy / INPHO Cahill has taken the reins of his native county. Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

2. Kilkenny’s new era

For the first time in 25 years, the Kilkenny hurlers enter a competitive game without Brian Cody on the sideline.

Derek Lyng will be looking to put his stamp on the side after a winter of change in which Conor Browne, Michael Carey, Richie Leahy and James Maher all stepped away from the panel.

With the Ballyhale contingent unlikely to feature in the opening rounds of the Allianz Hurling Leagues, Lyng will be experimenting in the coming weeks.

The Kilkenny conveyor belt continues to churn out talented young players, if underage and schools results are anything to go by, and the new manager will be looking to harness that.

After coming so close in last year’s All-Ireland final, the Cats are out to ensure that they come again stronger in 2023 — but Lyng has big boots to fill, and there is an expectation of success on Noreside. He will need results in the coming weeks.

3. Will Limerick time their run once more?

Across 2021 and 2022, Limerick’s Allianz Hurling League form was patchy at best. The Treaty failed to win any of their opening four games 12 months ago, and picked up their first victory in round four in 2021.

Any early concerns were quickly put to rest when the championship got underway. It appears that John Kiely, Paul Kinnerk and co have their current formula down to a tee, as they look to peak in the summer months — but can they continue to time that run?

It remains to be seen whether they will take a similar approach to 2023, and also whether or not they can do so successfully.

Contrasting Limerick’s successful trajectory to the tale of caution that was Waterford’s 2022 campaign — a Division 1 title followed by an early Munster championship exit — and it will be interesting to see whether other managers attempt to mirror Limerick’s approach.

The other question around the All-Ireland champions is whether any new player can break into the starting XV.

Thirteen players started in both the 2018 and 2022 All-Ireland finals for Limerick, with Cian Lynch missing last July’s showpiece through injury.

Kiely would relish young players stepping up over the coming weeks and giving him selection headaches ahead of the summer.

4. Can Antrim stick it to the big guns?

Corrigan Park has been a notoriously difficult place to visit for Division 1 teams in recent years. The Saffrons delivered home results against Clare and Wexford two years ago, while Dublin and Waterford survived scares last term.

After claiming the Joe McDonagh Cup, Darren Gleeson’s side will be gunning to show they belong at the top table. They have been making steady progress under the former All-Star goalkeeper, but big results are now needed to take the next step in their development.

Kilkenny come to town on Sunday, while Laois and Tipperary will also make the trip to Belfast in the coming weeks.

Upon the return of the Dunloy players following their run to the All-Ireland Club Championship final, Antrim will be a tough proposition for any team in Division 1B.

neil-mcmanus Bryan Keane / INPHO Antrim will compete in the Leinster Championship later this summer. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

5. Cork looking for missing ingredients

Injury to Mark Coleman was a significant setback for new Cork manager Pat Ryan before the year even got going.

But it offers the Rebels an opportunity to experiment as they look to nail down the key anchor positions in defence.

Up front, the Leesiders boast a wealth of attacking options, but striking the right balance of piano players and piano lifters is key.

First up on Saturday night, they take on a Limerick team who have been Cork’s kryptonite in recent years.

Fresh from a Munster Hurling League title that will do no harm in raising spirits on Lee-side, more silverware in the form of a first Allianz Hurling League crown since 1998 would be more than welcome.

More importantly, entering the Championship with a clear identity and an established starting team would mean it has been a fruitful spring campaign for Ryan.

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