No time to rest as Galway look to Canning
Scoring difference likely to decide who advance and who face potential drop
Portumna’s Joe Canning will be back in action for Galway against Clare on Sunday.
Under normal circumstances the All-Ireland club champions are not rushed back onto the county stage. But with five of the six teams in Division 1A facing into Sunday’s final round of matches with the prospect of making the hurling quarter-finals or else ending up in the relegation play-off, these are not normal circumstances.
No wonder some managers are feeling a bit edgy. Galway manager Anthony Cunningham hasn’t wasted any time in recalling team captain Joe Canning for Sunday’s showdown with Clare. That will come just six days after Canning won a fourth All-Ireland with his club, Portumna, but with scoring difference almost certain to decide who goes through and who faces the potential drop, his services may prove pivotal.
Portumna team-mates Damian Hayes and Andy Smith are also poised to return to the Galway squad, as Cunningham looks to strengthen his panel as much as possible for the meeting with the in-form All-Ireland champions.
Indeed the only thing certain in Division 1A at this stage is that Clare are already safely through to the quarter-finals- no matter what happens against Galway. The winners of Kilkenny against Waterford will join them, while Tipperary have to beat Dublin in Thurles to steer clear of the relegation play-off.
Even after all that scoring difference will come into play to decide the finishing positions: if only two teams finish level on points they are separated by the result of their previous meeting, but with Galway, Kilkenny, Dublin and Waterford all currently equal on four points, with Clare leading the way on six, scoring difference will likely prove pivotal.
Galway currently boast the best scoring difference after Clare, and a draw on Sunday might be enough to send them through. For Tipperary, however, three successive defeats - to Kilkenny, Clare and Galway – has left them bottom of the pile, and even if they do beat Dublin on Sunday, they’ll be relying on other results to go their way too. Otherwise it’s into the relegation play-off and the prospect of playing in Division 1B next season.
Tipperary manager Eamonn O’Shea has admitted his team are “a little bit edgy” but that he’d also “be very optimistic in terms of turning this around, because everyone is working hard to do that. It won’t be for the want of trying.”
Yesterday, former Tipperary player John McIntyre sympathised with O’Shea, but also reckoned “the pack has caught up and passed by Tipperary in a big way”.
Dublin will also be arriving to Semple Stadium on Sunday with spirits soaring again after their hard-fought win over Kilkenny in Parnell Park last Saturday night: if Anthony Daly’s team can manage another win then a quarter-final place almost certainly beckons.
Likewise for Kilkenny, who host a Waterford team on Sunday that are coming off an early spring hammering in Clare last Sunday – 5-18 to 0-20. Waterford manager Derek McGrath described that game as a “chastening experience for all of us”, but having beaten Dublin the previous week, who then went on to beat Kilkenny, Waterford will still fancy their chances of making the quarter-finals, too.
Things aren’t nearly as hectic in Division 1B – with Cork, Limerick, Wexford and Laois already through to the quarter-finals, while Offaly and Antrim are already resigned to the relegation play-off. After drawing with Offaly last Sunday, Limerick are now relying on Cork to slip up against Wexford in the last round. Otherwise, Cork will hold on to the sole promotional position, leaving Limerick to miss out for yet another year.
By around 4pm on Sunday, when all the games are concluded, the quarter-final pairings will be decided as follows: First Division 1A v Fourth Division 1B; Second Division 1A v Third Division 1B; Third Division 1A v Second Division 1B; Fourth Division 1A v First Division 1B.
Home quarter-final venues will be granted to a county which had only two home games in the group section; if both teams had two or three home games in the group section then a draw will be made to decide on home advantage.