Dublin starting to show glimpses of greatness
Clare, at this stage, are looking good and Kilkenny aren’t gone away yet
Clare’s Shane O’Donnell showed that he’s no one (hat)trick pony against Waterford.
Are Dublin the new Galway? This might seem a little unfair on Dublin given that most of the teams in section 1A of the hurling league are finding it difficult to maintain any vein of good form. Consistency is the key component which is eluding them as is often the case with the Galway hurlers. But yes it’s only March and yes it’s only the league.
So are Dublin making progress? Well they are still well up in the chasing pack and they have shown glimpses of greatness and the required work rate at various times in their four games to date, with their performance against Clare being their best 70 minutes so far.
What teams are ahead of them? Well Clare, at this stage, are looking good and are certainly the in-form team. Kilkenny are on their heels. Now that’s a statement we haven’t heard articulated or seen in print since the summer of 2006, when Cork led the field and the Cats were preparing to stop the Rebels three-in-a-row attempt.
Since then Kilkenny have been the marquee team. But there was a good deal of evidence last year that their reign was coming to an end and that there were new pretenders to the throne. Those pretenders from Clare are now the occupants of that seat of glory.
Nevertheless, this year the Banner men didn’t show, until last Sunday’s demolition of Waterford, how potentially good they actually are.
They have the most talented panel in the country and this year they have the confidence earned by last season’s All-Ireland victory. This confidence and belief is very evident in all their games. But the bedrock of their performances is their work ethic. This is a team which has tasted success and really want more. This is a really skilful, pacy, intelligent, physical team.
This time last year they had months of hard training behind them but they were struggling to stay with the pack in the league. This year they are the team to beat. All these youngsters are a year older on the calendar but a few years older confidence wise.
Last Sunday’s first-half display showed how lethal they are. There were similarities in their movement of the ball to that of Barcelona’s finest big ball exponents. Over-the-top description maybe but we’ve seen them perform at a new level on quite a few occasions over the past year.
Some of the hurling artistry has been spectacular. Shane O’Donnell showed that he’s no one (hat)trick pony and Podge Collins and Tony Kelly epitomise the skill and work rate that permeates the team. Newcomers Shane Golden, Peter and Bobby Duggan, Cathal McInerney and Cathal O’Connell, among others, have shown enough to ensure that the push for places on the first 15 will be intense.
But Kilkenny aren’t gone away yet and while Davy FitzGerald has been measured in his use of players so far in the league, Brian Cody and his new management team have shown great courage in their team selections. They have never picked the ‘strongest’ available team and have experimented in all their games.
They are in a much better position than all of the other teams in division one in that they have given game time to 29 players so far and they still have a number of key names yet to return.
And while some of the old guard might be showing signs of wear and tear, more than a few of the new brigade are showing very positive signs.
So this weekend we will have further proof as to where teams lie in the pecking order.
As was the case at the same time last year all Sunday’s 1A games have significance. Tipperary are in the most vulnerable position, though, with only two points in their account. If we’re criticising Dublin and Galway for an absence of consistency we also have to include Tipp in that group. They have shown patches of excellence but unfortunately not often enough.
They played quite well against Kilkenny for a good period of the game and played well for a lesser while against Clare. They also put in a notable second half away from home against Galway. But they badly need a win at home against Dublin.
The GAA and Allianz couldn’t have wished for a better last round in section 1B. Limerick, in pole position for promotion last weekend, slipped up and now Cork are top of the pile.
So on Sunday two of the three games in the division are very important.
Cork, for a long while last Sunday looked vulnerable against Antrim and while they pulled through in the end they can’t be happy with the performances or, for that matter, any of their performances to date ( the first quarter against Limerick excepted ).
As things stand now I expect them to win promotion on Sunday which was their priority. This of course guarantees top flight hurling again next spring which is very important.
The Limerick management has been fairly conservative in their team selection so far, fielding strong teams in all the games because winning has been the priority. On this Sunday it’ll again be all about winning and hoping that Wexford will do them a favour by beating Cork.