Strongholds Cork and Wexford look the real deal again
Waterford's lack of depth likely to be exposed early
1 Strongholds getting stronger
If 2017 told us anything, it sparked the real return of hurling strongholds Cork and Wexford.
Although Cork made an All-Ireland Final appearance in 2013, it’s a long time since they appeared in four finals in a row (2003-2006) and the Rebel county have been itching to get back to the top-table ever since.
A shock win over Tipperary in the opening round of the Munster Championship last year sparked a run to the All Ireland semi-final, collecting a Munster title on the way. With a young panel who are now a year older and wiser, the Rebels will have serious ambitions of progressing to the business end of the championship once again this year.
Along with Cork, Wexford are once again back at the top table of hurling which sparked joyous scenes across the Model County in 2017.
A win on home soil against Kilkenny in the Leinster Championship was a huge result for Davy Fitzgerald’s men and though they underperformed in the Leinster Final, they’ll be keen to maintain the fantastic progress they have made in recent years.
2 Retaining the title is tremendously tricky
While Galway’s young team look to have a bright future ahead of them, the difficulty of putting together back-to-back All Ireland titles cannot be understated.
Kilkenny are the only team to have done that in the last decade and, since Galway’s teams of 1988 and 1989, Cork and Kilkenny are the only counties to have completed two in a row. Galway have the potential to break into that elite complany thanks to the exciting amount of underage talent at their disposal, but many top teams in the past have failed to do so.
Following their win in 2016 Tipperary looked as if they had the players to go back-to-back but it became clear early in last year’s championship that it wouldn’t be the case. In one of the most competitive championships in recent decades, it will take something special from Galway to retain their crown.
3 Goals do not win games
At least, not always. Galway finished the 2017 championship with Liam MacCarthy in their hands but with just two goals scored in five matches.
The fact that Galway have a wide range of point-scorers at their disposal, as well as a tight defence, means they are happy to keep the scoreboard ticking over and don’t need to push forward and take chances.
4 Waterford have missed their chance
Two lost semi-finals in 2015 and 2016 were followed by a 2017 All-Ireland final loss. Derek McGrath’s side have made huge strides in recent years but have fallen short time and time again, and with last season’s final loss, may have missed their chance.
The depth of Waterford’s panel was exposed last year and with the loss of both Kieran and Shane Bennett, McGrath’s side may not have the strength in depth to survive in the new format which will see them play four times in the opening five weeks, as well as having no home games.
5 Limerick look ready to bloom
Limerick are a force to be reckoned with. Although they bowed out of the senior championship with two losses from two games played, they’ve now won two Under 21 championships in three years, and opened this year’s Under-21 campaign with a 14-point demolition of Clare.
Although we’ve seen this with Limerick teams of the past, this group look quite different and should make the step-up to senior level quickly. This underage success already paid dividends in the league this year, with Limerick finally securing promotion from Division 1B.
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