Donegal open with daunting challenge
If the biggest cheers in Munster probably came from the provincial council who have got the prospect of a Cork-Kerry final boosting the coffers to warm their winter, the loudest groans must have emanated from Tipperary, who find themselves playing Kerry for a fourth successive year.
Cork will be wary about their opener against Limerick, who 10 seasons ago beat them in Páirc Uí Chaoimh – the last time either Cork or Kerry were beaten by a county apart from each other in the provincial championship – and who have given them a fair tussle on occasions since.
All-Ireland hurling champions Kilkenny have ended up on – as well as defining – the harder side of the draw. For the first time in eight years they go into the championship without the tag of provincial champions. As a result they will face Offaly for what will be the first time in five years in the quarter-finals. Should they win, they will play either Wexford, who they defeated in last year’s championship, or Dublin, who they walloped in this year’s.
Defending champions Galway, whose big win over Kilkenny was the result of the season and who won their first Leinster title since their migration into the province in 2009, have a campaign reminiscent of the old days when they face whoever survives the preliminary matches.
Amongst those counties are London, debuting in the province having campaigned in Ulster in the past, Antrim, Westmeath, Laois and Carlow. Westmeath will start in the preliminary round against Antrim, opponents they defeated last May.
The Munster hurling championship will once again begin with a meeting between Limerick and Tipperary. At the beginning of the season just concluded, John Allen’s team pushed the provincial champions all the way in Semple Stadium before losing out in the last 10 minutes.
Tipp will be under new management following the appointment of All-Ireland winning coach Eamon O’Shea.
Another fixture that is a repeat this year sees David Fitzgerald take his Clare team into action against the county he previously managed, Waterford.
Cork have broken away from Tipperary’s stifling embrace, as the counties find themselves on different sides of the draw for the first time in what will be six years. In that time the Leesiders have won just one of the five championship meetings.
Dates and venues will be sorted out by the provincial councils in the coming weeks.