Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
INPHO Na Piarsaigh, St Anne's and Glen Rovers all in the club hurling spotlight.
# Talking Points
A novel Wexford decider, leading Cork and Dublin sides seek response and last eight in Waterford
It’s a big weekend of club hurling action around the country.

1. A novel decider in Wexford

If there is a victor delivered in Wexford Park on Sunday, or later if a replay is required, it is nailed on to spark great scenes of jubilation. A novel pairing for county senior hurling final day brings together two clubs hoping to realise the ambition of becoming champions. Rapparees have to go back to 1978 for their last title at this level, while St Anne’s were winners in 2000 after previously suffering a 76-year drought.

A sense of change in Wexford was reinforced by last weekend’s relegation final which saw St Martin’s send Oulart-the-Ballagh down. That pair were fighting the drop after an era where they, along with Shelmaliers, have won 12 of the last 13 senior hurling deciders. 

With county players involved – Liam Ryan and Kevin Foley for Rapparees, Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Liam Óg McGovern for St Anne’s – Sunday’s final is loaded with potential.

2. Limerick await knockout stage pairings

The last set of group fixtures in the home of the All-Ireland champions will determine the quarter-final pairings in a fortnight and who will get the byes to the semi-finals in mid-October. Last year’s finalists Na Piarsaigh and Doon are again leading the way in Section A of the senior championship, if they win their respective games this weekend, then they will advance straight to the semi-finals.

The identity of the quarter-finalists will be interesting. Patrickswell and Kilmallock are not playing this weekend but will hope results fall their way. In Section B, South Liberties are in pole position in one group and then the winners of Adare against Kildimo-Pallaskenry tomorrow will also qualify.

The stars of John Kiely’s inter-county oufit are all immersed in it with 11 of the starting fifteen that defeated Cork last month, seeking to reach the senior knockout stages.

the-limerick-staff-and-squad-celebrate-in-front-of-hill-16-with-the-liam-maccarthy-cup Ryan Byrne / INPHO Limerick celebrate their Liam MacCarthy Cup victory. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

3. Carlow and Kerry to hand out hurling silverware

Wexford is not the only county with a senior hurling showpiece on Sunday. Carlow’s decider gets the TG4 treatment with Mount Leinster Rangers taking on St Mullins. Kerry’s showdown is the focus in Tralee with Kilmoyley facing St Brendan’s.

Strong sides in either county are contesting these battles. Mount Leinster Rangers and St Mullins have carved up the last 12 Carlow titles, Mount Leinster shading it 7-5 and the pair have faced off in six finals in that time frame. In Kerry, Kilmoyley are the reigning champions and seek a fourth crown in seven seasons while Ardfert side St Brendan’s last won in 2013.

There’s some well-known figures on the sideline as well with former Cork boss John Meyler once more in charge of Kilmoyley, while Kilkenny selector Conor Phelan is again at the helm of Mount Leinster Rangers.

john-meyler Laszlo Geczo / INPHO John Meyler is in charge of Kilmoyley. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

4. Cork finalists search for a response

The top level of Cork club hurling began last weekend and already the challenge facing two big names from 2020 has become more sizeable. Blackrock and Glen Rovers played out an extraordinarily high-scoring final last October, the former prevailing by 4-26 to 4-18 after extra-time. But defeats last weekend in their openers, increases the significance of their second round-robin games.

Both were defeated by impressive outfits, Blackrock lost narrowly to last year’s semi-finalists Erins Own by two points and Glen Rovers were defeated convincingly by last year’s quarter-finalists Douglas by 11 points. The recovery operation today sees Glen Rovers meet Bishopstown and Blackrock play Charleville.

A second defeat for either would be hugely damaging for their hopes this season.

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blackrock-celebrate-with-the-trophy Ryan Byrne / INPHO Blackrock players celebrated last year's county final success. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

5. Cuala’s recovery in the capital

Champions for the last two years, and five times in the last six seasons, Cuala occupy a lofty position in the modern Dublin senior hurling standings. But their challenge took a major hit on the first day out in the 2021 race, suffering a 15-point loss at the hands of a Kilmacud Crokes team that had Ronan Hayes in free-scoring form.

Cuala were short some of their top figures like Con and Cian O’Callaghan but it still represented a setback. They’re back out in the four-team group tomorrow for a Round 2 fixture against Thomas Davis. A response will be sought by the team coached by Kilkenny attacking great Eddie Brennan.

6. Last eight battles in Waterford

It’s quarter-final weekend in Waterford as the senior hurling race starts to heat up for 2021. Ballygunner’s superiority is well-documented as they chase honours for the eighth year on the bounce. They take on Fourmilewater in the opening game today with Mount Sion v Passage and Lismore v Roanmore completing the Saturday schedule.

Perhaps the last quarter-final tomorrow is the most intriguing. Fraher Field hosts a local derby with two teams from the town squaring off when Dungarvan play Abbeyside. In 2019 they met in a quarter-final that conlcuded in dramatic fashion. Four goals were served up in the last ten minutes, two of them in injury time, with the most decisive struck from Dungarvan’s Michael Kiely as they won out 2-17 to 3-12.

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