All-Ireland SHC 2020: Our writers and pundits make their predictions

Our team of hurling pundits sift though the contenders in search of winners

Tipperary’s Séamus Callanan celebrates with the Liam MacCarthy Cup after victory over Kilkenny in last year’s final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Tipperary’s Séamus Callanan celebrates with the Liam MacCarthy Cup after victory over Kilkenny in last year’s final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Seán Moran

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

The big issues will still be settled on good surfaces but there’s no doubt that the type of game possible on fast hard ground in dry weather won’t be feasible.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick in Munster and Leinster?

The round-robin champions of the first two years have failed to add the All-Ireland but I think this will change and the All-Ireland will be between Limerick and Galway.

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

I think it will be a big year for Galway’s Fintan Burke. Injury ruined 2019 for him and this year’s delay has helped him regain fitness and form.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s s championship?

There’ll be none.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

I think Limerick will be stung by what happened last year and have the all-round game for different conditions.

Nicky English

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

None, as long as the composition is the same. A lot of the matches will be in Croke Park, which is not the same as the sort of winter hurling we normally see, for example last season’s Borris-Ileigh-Ballygunner Munster final in Páirc Uí Rinn. The weather won’t affect the quality of pitches in the bigger venues so whereas play may be a little slower it won’t have a major impact.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick in Munster and Leinster?

Teams who are older. Tipp, for instance, won’t be sorry that there’s no round-robin. They’ve had a big break since the All-Ireland and although playing first will give the winners of Clare-Limerick an advantage in the semi-final I think Tipperary will be glad of the fewer matches. Galway will be glad to play potentially everything in Croke Park as opposed to home-and-away. Titles are a lottery. I’ll take Limerick in Munster even though they’re looking thin in the full back line after Mike Casey’s injury. Galway have a big game against Wexford but I think if they get past that they’ll win Leinster.

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

Define ‘young’ I suppose. Shane Kingston (Cork) has developed well and Jake Morris (Tipperary) has big potential but Dessie Hutchinson (Waterford) for me, regardless of age and at 23 he’s not old, was the most exciting player in the club championships.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s championship?

I think there’ll be plenty of surprises. Waterford will improve and are well capable of springing an upset on Cork.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Galway with plenty of big players will do well in the slightly slower conditions.

Jackie Tyrrell

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

None at all, it just fills column inches while we’re waiting for the games to start.

Who will knock-out hurling suit best and who is your pick in Munster and Leinster?

I reckon it will suit Limerick and Tipperary as they have the best panels in the country. I reckon Kilkenny will win Leinster and Tipperary will take Munster.

Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson has caught the eye for Ballygunner this year. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho
Waterford’s Dessie Hutchinson has caught the eye for Ballygunner this year. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

Dessie Hutchison of Waterford has all the attributes to be a top-class forward. He is pacy, direct and has an eye for a score. Waterford will look to puck a lot of ball into his hands.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s championship?

Clare. They could be beaten in the first round and have a deep drop run through the back door. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them make a final.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

Limerick. I think the hurt of last year will stand to them. They have assembled a strong panel and will have learned a lot from 2019. I expect them to go all the way.

Malachy Clerkin

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

The winter hurling will make more difference than the yellow sliotars. The rampant scoring of the past decade will surely be clipped, meaning closer matches and a huge responsibility on free-takers.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick in Munster and Leinster?

It will suit whoever stays injury- and Covid-free. Panel depth will be a huge factor. Tipperary for Munster, Wexford for Leinster.

Adrian Mullen: Kilkenny will be eagerly awaiting the return to action following injury of a bright young talent. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Adrian Mullen: Kilkenny will be eagerly awaiting the return to action following injury of a bright young talent. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

We all presumed that Adrian Mullen was going to miss the year but if he makes it back to play in the championship, it will be some achievement.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s championship?

It seems a bit mad that there are five teams ahead of Wexford in the betting. Maybe their Total Hurling thing needs a long season to drill properly but I’d fancy them against all but Limerick and Tipp.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

Tipperary have the deepest panel with the most All-Ireland medals in it and a bye into the Munster semi-final. Four games to win a two-in-a-row is very doable.

Joanne Cantwell

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

Assuming they’re not the heavy ones as feared by Joe Canning and Eoin Murphy, the biggest difference may come to those watching at home.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick in Munster and Leinster?

It’s not quite knockout but will feel like it given how quickly the qualifiers follow provincial-exits. With so many games in a short space of time, the biggest influencer could be squad depth. Surely, that gives Limerick yet another advantage. Limerick to win Munster and I can’t make up my mind in Leinster . . . Wexford may feel they have something to prove after last year’s loss to Tipp. They may well retain the provincial title.

Robert Downey: talented young defender can have a big impact in Cork’s defence. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Robert Downey: talented young defender can have a big impact in Cork’s defence. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

When do most of the 2018 All-Ireland champions stop counting as young hurlers?! If we’re looking to a newer breed, both Conor Bowe and Jake Morris looked exciting for Tipperary in last year’s Under- 20s run. Forwards get all the glory, though, how many problems could Robert Downey solve for Cork this year?

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s championship?

When the standard is so high among all the Liam McCarthy Cup teams, outside of Laois causing another upset, what really counts as a surprise anymore? This is doubly true when we have no current form to go on, so we can’t really tell what Waterford or Dublin, who’ve disappointed in recent years, might be capable of. Can’t see any major shocks in hurling.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

Limerick were caught off-guard by Kilkenny’s intensity last year. They’ll be determined to have everything covered this time around. The Treaty’s to lose.

Keith Duggan

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

As the song goes: it makes none. Except that it may be easier to see under lights.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick In Munster and Leinster?

That’s a bit of a lottery but I’m going with Tipperary and Kilkenny.

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

Adrian Mullen could have a big impact on Kilkenny’s winter.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s s championship?

I’m not sure there is going to be one given the format but am curious to see what Clare do.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

Tipperary.

Eamon Donoghue

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

With most of the big matches set to be in Croke Park, the ground should still play fast. But of course with winter comes more wind and rain and cold so that bit of extra steel and game management will be needed. The sort of conditions you’d imagine would suit big physical teams like Galway and Limerick. The players should have got a chance to get used to the yellow sliotar, but for the spectators watching from home it might add a bit of intrigue.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick In Munster and Leinster?

Knockout hurling will simplify matters and suit the more experienced teams who relish the big day and will be fresher with fewer games. Limerick will benefit from the extra 70 minutes (if they can win it of course) ahead of a semi-final clash against Tipperary. In Leinster, Kilkenny will be waiting for the survivor from Galway and Wexford’s clash, but the Tribesmen should be too powerful for both.

Fintan Burke: the St Thomas man can have a big year for Galway. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Fintan Burke: the St Thomas man can have a big year for Galway. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

I’m really looking forward to watching Fintan Burke break into the Galway team after an excellent club championship with St Thomas.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s championship?

Liam Cahill reinstalled Waterford’s fighting spirit during the earlier stages of the league, and with S&C coach Martin Bennett involved expect to see the likes of Austin Gleeson in optimum condition. They’ve a point to prove to themselves this year and I expect them to be very competitive and could easily pull off a shock against Cork. If they can pull off more than one that could mean silverware.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

Galway with everyone fit and firing are my pick. They’re not being overhyped this year and will be more focused as a result, but they will face an almighty test in their first match against Wexford.

Ian O’Riordan

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

Whatever about the Henry Ford palette the sudden timing appears a little off, particularly given the run of restrictions around training already, and having once viewed from the press box for the Super-11s at Fenway Park can’t recall any difference anyway.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick in Munster and Leinster?

The knockout will suit the teams in form, even if seven months out of date, which makes Wexford (player availability permitting) and then Galway the pick of Leinster, Limerick and then Tipperary in Munster.

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

Tipperary have their pick of these at the moment, the likes of Jake Morris, but looking forward to Kilkenny’s Adrian Mullen post-cruciate return.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s championship?

Clare, maybe, if the Brian Lohan influence can take some hold.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

Limerick, if only that they have something to prove.

Joanne O’Riordan

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

Firstly, I’m glad I’ll finally be able to actually see the ball! If the stories of boys breaking hurleys off the sliotars are true (are Henry Ford making the sliotars?), maybe we’ll see fewer points being scored from players’ own 21.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick In Munster and Leinster?

The group round-robin stage really suited Cork because of how hit and miss the team can be, so I can only hope they get it together for the number of games needed. If not, I like Tipperary and Limerick’s chances. In Leinster, given Wexford are hit with various crises, I can’t see past Kilkenny.

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

I’ve no idea if he’s still categorised as young, but throughout the club championships, I really enjoyed watching Kerry’s Shane Conway. Maybe it’s the fact my Corkness is in a sarcastic awe at a Kerry man holding a hurley.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s championship?

Clare seemed to be motoring well during the league, and the weird mismatch of quarter-final/league final might lift them further in terms of playing for something.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

If my beloved Rebels can’t do the double, I’m calling 2020 a day!

Gavin Cummiskey

Winter hurling with yellow sliotars, what difference will it make?

The ‘yellow bullet’ might prove the gimmick that allows hurling to break into the US and Asian markets.

Who will knockout hurling suit best and who is your pick In Munster and Leinster?

Limerick or Wexford can strike a vein of form that delivers Liam MacCarthy. The old order will ruin at least one of these predictions.

The most exciting young hurler in Ireland right now is?

Kyle Hayes: can prove an influential figure for Limerick this season. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho
Kyle Hayes: can prove an influential figure for Limerick this season. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

Can’t see past Kyle Hayes when the mood takes him.

Who will be the surprise package of this year’s championship?

None of the top six teams – Limerick, Tipp, Clare, Cork, Kilkenny, Galway – making a run would be a surprise but I’ll lean towards Limerick rediscovering their mojo from 2018.

Who do you expect to be lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup at the end of it all?

Limerick, but that’s presuming a lot in advance. Cork (or Nphet) will probably ruin this grand idea.

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