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Clive O'Donohoe/INPHO O'Connor also appeared on last year's Sky Sports GAA panel.
# Expecting big things
'We might see new All-Ireland champions': Jamesie O'Connor talks Liam McCarthy hopefuls
The Clare great is looking forward to seeing if someone can knock Kilkenny off their perch at the top.

JAMESIE O’CONNOR BELIEVES that this could be the year that someone finally dethrones Kilkenny as All-Ireland champions.

Brian Cody’s side have won four of the last five titles — a run only broken by O’Connor’s native Clare in 2013 — and have enjoyed quite a reign over the hurling championship in the past decade or so.

“I think the league campaign certainly has thrown up new contenders,” O’Connor said.

“Clare appear to be back to where they were, and where we thought they would be in 2014.

“Waterford have definitely kicked on again, their game plan is more refined. They arguably should have won the league.”

Speaking at the Sky Sports launch of their 2016 GAA coverage last week, the former Clare midfielder highlighted the fact that the Cats may not be the team they once were.

“People maybe feel the strength and depth isn’t there that there once was. They maybe can’t afford the injuries that they would have had ample cover for in previous seasons.

“They don’t seem to have the same luxury of riches coming as they did.

“I think that teams maybe feel that if they can get it right at the right time, we might see new All Ireland champions.”

O’Connor feels that Galway are strong contenders to knock Kilkenny off their perch in Leinster again, as they did in 2012.

“Galway are obviously on the softer side of the draw and there’s pressure on the players to deliver now, given the stance that they took in the winter.

Jason Flynn and Joe Canning battle for a loose ball Cathal Noonan / INPHO Jason Flynn and Joe Canning in action for Galway. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

“You can’t rule them out. They’re still, on their day, capable of beating anybody, especially with Jason Flynn, Joe Canning, Cathal Mannion, the type of forwards that they have.

Until we see them in the height of summer, I’m not sure where Galway are at at this point in time. I’m not sure if the Galway hurling public know that either.”

Waterford are another team that O’Connor fancies in the race for Liam McCarthy.

“This is a team, you get the sense, that are on a journey. These players are hungry, they’re ambitious. But I think there’s a level of intelligence and seriousness in the Waterford camp about where they want to go and what they want to do to get there.

They are going to be a force, and I’d be very very surprised if they’re not going to be there at the business end of it come August.

“Last year, obviously disappointed in terms of the quality of the games,” O’Connor added. “If you take the semi-final out of it, I don’t think it ever caught fire.

“I think there’s a big hope (for this year’s championship) because the replay and the league final were totally what we didn’t expect to get on the day — so open, so high scoring and so entertaining. I’m looking for more of that this summer.”

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