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5 talking points from the weekend's Allianz hurling league action

Conor McGrath catches the eye for Clare, Tipperary’s cause for defensive concern and Kilkenny’s springtime auditions.

Tipperary's Conor O'Mahony and Clare's Peter Duggan battle for possession.
Tipperary's Conor O'Mahony and Clare's Peter Duggan battle for possession.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

1. Defensive cause for concern for O’Shea

Eamonn O’Shea has stressed that he is not focused on Tipperary’s league campaign with bigger challenges lying ahead in 2014. Yet one glaring statistic after the Premier losing two games on the spin must be a source of anxiety for him.

Tipperary have shipped nine goals in their last two games, Clare putting four past them yesterday after Kilkenny had raided their backline for five a fortnight before. The introduction of Conor O’Mahony was needed to bring some solidity to their rearguard during yesterday’s game and plugging holes at the back will be something Tipperary must target before next Sunday’s tie with Galway.

2. A new hat-trick hero for Clare

Clare’s 2013 campaign was defined by one of their attackers grabbing a hat-trick on the biggest stage of all. Shane O’Donnell took all the plaudits for his three strikes to the Cork net last September. But the critical green flag was raised in that game by another attacker when Conor McGrath unleashed a thunderbolt to the top corner after a surging run.

McGrath was back amongst the goals yesterday in Thurles, taking the Tipperary defence for a hat-trick in Semple Stadium as he showcased his range of offensive skills. The Cratloe player has always had an eye for goal – he netted at crucial times against Waterford and Galway as well last summer. And it was against Tipperary that he started his senior championship career in sensational style in 2011.

Source: HurlingGoals/YouTube

3. The Kilkenny springtime auditions continue

After winning a ten-goal thriller last time out, Kilkenny shook things up for their meeting with Galway yesterday. Henry Shefflin and Colin Fennelly, who bagged 4-10 between them against Tipperary, were given the day off while Eoin Larkin was also rested.

Kilkenny coped just fine, as is their custom under Brian Cody. They fashioned another league victory over Galway and racked up 2-16. After three league games, Brian Cody has run the rule over 28 players, following through on his stated ambition to expose plenty players to games.

Paul Murphy, JJ Delaney, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Kieran Joyce, Michael Fennelly, Richie Power and Aidan Fogarty were other established names not involved yesterday. That meant Eoin Murphy, Cillian Buckley, Richie Hogan and TJ Reid were the only survivors from last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Cork. Despite the upheaval, Kilkenny still triumphed as the springtime auditions continue.

4. Thoughts of survival in the minds of Galway, Tipperary and Dublin

There’s only two rounds of games remaining in Division 1A of the league and next week’s set of fixtures are going to be pivotal in determining who is trying to stave off relegation on the final day on March 23rd. The heat is particularly on Galway, Tipperary and Dublin in that regard after all suffered defeats yesterday.

Another loss next week will heighten the pressure ahead of the last round of games. Dublin may be at home next Saturday night yet their task is not straightforward as they welcome Kilkenny. While the meeting of Tipperary and Galway is the critical game next Sunday, which will likely shape the relegation battle.

Niall Healy and Lester Ryan Niall Healy in action for Galway yesterday. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

5. Scoring difference likely to be key in Division 1B

As was widely forecast, Cork and Limerick are in pole position in Division 1B. Both are on five points, just one ahead of Wexford and Laois, and will be tipped to fight it out for the coveted promotion spot. Given they drew in their clash on the opening night in Páirc Uí Rinn, scoring difference will then likely come into play.

Could yesterday’s games be influential? Limerick took a long time to see off Wexford and saw their six-point advantage cut down to three at the finish when Rory Jacob netted. But they are on +26 and top the table ahead of Cork on +13. Jimmy Barry-Murphy saw his side fail to embellish their scoring record substantially against Offaly yesterday. They will need to be more ruthless against Antrim next Sunday.

Mahony the scoring star once more for Waterford as they claim victory against Dublin

21 of the best pictures from the weekend’s GAA action

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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