Hurling Championship 2017: The experts’ view

Our panel make their predictions for the hurling summer ahead

After their National Hurling League win over Tipperary, will Galway keep their eye in this summer? Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

After their National Hurling League win over Tipperary, will Galway keep their eye in this summer? Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Jackie Tyrrell

1. The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

Some teams like Galway, Wexford and Tipp put a lot into the league, while the likes of Waterford and Clare were a lot more experimental. Yeah, Galway are the real deal, and have made a statement with their league final performance.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

Alan Cadogan. After a good Fitzgibbon Cup campaign, an All Star nominee of 2016, I am really looking forward to see if he can deliver on his promise and potential and bring his game to the next level. A hugely exciting player!

3. Is there any prospect of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

Yes. Wexford have had a good league campaign and built up a lot of momentum and confidence from it, which is crucial. They have the ability to beat many of the big teams in the championship.

4. Ultimately, which team will lift Liam this September?

I’m giving the nod to Galway slightly over Tipperary once they continue their ‘Not Today’ attitude throughout the summer. I was really impressed with their league final performance and attitude, and they have a presence about them I haven’t seen before.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year?

John McGrath has all the skill and attributes to be a top player and forward in the modern game: skill, vision, a ruthless finisher and the mentality for the big days. I expect him to have a big year.

Seán Moran

1. The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

Galway are always genuine contenders - when in the mood. Given Tipperary’s flat-line in Limerick, it’s hard to evaluate their conquerors but there was a relentlessness and edge to Galway that, if maintained, will make them credible frontrunners.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

No player who can take a match by the scruff of the neck in quite the same way as Tony Kelly. Photograph: Inpho
No player who can take a match by the scruff of the neck in quite the same way as Tony Kelly. Photograph: Inpho

There’s no player who can take a match by the scruff of the neck in quite the same way as Tony Kelly. His touch, mobility and accuracy constitute a massive weapon in Clare’s armoury. Having done so much to inspire Ballyea to the club final, he lost out because Cuala were a stronger collective but in a more equal environment he can electrify a match.

3. Is there any prospect at all of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

No. Hurling remains an authoritarian regime. Wexford’s encouraging league has led to growing optimism that they can give Kilkenny a major challenge in June, which would be a turn-up, but the Leinster champions have always been reluctant fall guys - especially when put on notice.

4. Ultimately, which team will lift Liam this September?

I’m struggling to avoid being over-influenced by the league but - and this involves discounting the competition’s tradition as a bulk supplier of false dawns to the county - winning it was exactly the sort of thing that Galway were meant to do as a sign of their intent. They've been so close in recent years and with the opening up of Leinster they can take the optimum route.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year?

There’s always a compelling story in a player coming back from serious injury. Joe Canning’s departure at half-time in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final is hardly controversially seen as a factor in Tipp’s one-point win. Restored to action, he has looked comfortable as a moving part rather than the whole machine. Within a decent context, the power and precision of his game can thrive.

Nicky English

1. The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

Galway have been contenders for the last number of years. The league only confirmed that status as real contenders and I’d be surprised if Tipperary can win the All-Ireland by going through Galway, based on what we saw in the league final.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

There are a lot of really good players out there. I still love watching TJ Reid - John McGrath and Seamus Callanan for Tipperary have been really good. It’ll be interesting to see how Waterford will go. Austin Gleeson, especially, to see what he’ll be like after being hurler of the year last year. There’s a young fella in Cork, Luke Meade, who is also a very good player.

3. Is there any prospect of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

I think the standard is pretty even going into this championship. The view that Tipperary were well ahead of the pack was fairly blown apart by Galway in the league final and possibly even before that. I don’t think there is a huge amount between the teams. What do you call a lesser light these days? Clare or Waterford are teams that haven’t won it in recent times but could be dangerous.

4. Ultimately, which team will lift Liam this September?

I think Galway have a great chance. It’s not a case of me changing my mind following their league win. I think they’ve been consistent and find it very hard to see how Tipperary - who are favourites - will beat them. That’s my view on it.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year?

Galway’s Joe Canning. Photograph: Inpho
Galway’s Joe Canning. Photograph: Inpho

If you go on the logic that it depends on who wins the All-Ireland in most cases - although I know it didn’t work out that way last year when Waterford’s Austin Gleeson got it, the system was a little bit funny last year - I’d think Galway will have the standout man. I’d go for Joe Canning.

Ian O’Riordan

1. The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

Galway have been genuine contenders for a few years now, and only need to convince themselves of that, which the league win surely has.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

Galway may have been missing some X-factor, so welcome back Johnny Glynn.

3. Is there any prospect of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

Not this year no, not unless Wexford are considered a lesser light, or indeed Cork, hiding out nicely this year in the long grass.

4. Ultimately, which team will lift Liam this September?

It’s probably still Tipperary’s title to lose, and at full strength, and with calm heads, they can still deliver their first back-to-back since Dylan went electric.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year?

Galway have so many talented forwards right now, and something about Conor Cooney’s form so far, even though he missed the league final, suggests he’s capable of shooting out lights all summer.

Keith Duggan

1 The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

Even without their league success, Galway would have been contenders. They have been a stroke of the ball away for the past two summers. They have added greater physical intensity to their armoury this year, which will be significant. Winning Leinster would be a strong statement of intent. Having a plan for big opposition target men like Seamus Callanan is a must.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

Can John McGrath maintain his league form. Photograph: Inpho
Can John McGrath maintain his league form. Photograph: Inpho

John McGrath was such a sublime force in Tipperary’s All-Ireland winning run in what his first full season in the team that it will be fascinating to see if he can maintain that form this summer. Wexford will hope that Davy Fitzgerald can harness Jack Guiney’s immense potential while in Cork, Kieran Kingston’s son, Shane, has shown strongly among a group of young hurlers out to revive Rebel fortunes.

3. Is there any prospect of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

The leading counties are operating at such a level that it is impossible to see the second tier counties having any meaningful say from the last eight on. What would make the summer is the sight of the traditional counties like Limerick or Wexford gate-crashing the last four or to see Waterford take that September step under Derek McGrath.

4. Ultimately, which team will lift Liam this September?

The most logical choice is Tipperary, but it is 30 years since Galway were last All-Ireland senior champions and the stars may be about to align. They are league champions (it mattered to Kilkenny!), they have key players in terrific shape, they are nothing like as dependent on Joe Canning, they are big, they hit hard and they know they are very, very close. So Galway.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year?

If that happens and Galway do win, it will not require the sort of all-conquering individual displays previous summers have demanded from Joe Canning but rather an understated playmaking influence to go with his phenomenal scoring potential. It could well be that the one of the younger crop puts in the eye-catching displays and if Galway are to triumph, it will almost certainly have meant a huge season from David Burke.

Joanne Cantwell

1. The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

I hope the league is an indication of what’s to come, insofar that there may be a number of contenders outside the top two come August. I don’t think Kilkenny are done just yet, and as for Galway as genuine contenders? Yes, they won the league, but they were also in an All-Ireland final the year before last. Of course they’re contenders.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

Lee Chin. I was working at a championship game a couple of years ago when Wexford were annihilated by Kilkenny. Lee Chin still managed to be one of the classiest players on the pitch. What might he be like in the height of summer if the whole Wexford team is firing on all cylinders?

3. Is there any prospect of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

Depends on whom you deem to be lesser lights? If you’re talking about the likes of Laois, then no. If you’re talking about any county outside the top four, then Clare, Cork, Wexford could all produce a shock on their day.

4. Ultimately, which team will be lift Liam this September?

For the first time in about 10 years I’m not immediately thinking Kilkenny. I want to say Galway or Waterford, but I’m playing it safe; Tipperary to lift Liam.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year?

After three nominations and no win to date, it’s got to be Séamus Callanan.

Gavin Cummiskey

1. The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

It would be great to see a vintage Joe Canning - he’s 28 now - but no. Tipp momentarily took their eye off the sliotar. That’s all.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

Tony Kelly. The Steph Curry of hurling. And Austin Gleeson.

3. Is there any prospect at all of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

More chance in football. Wait, are Clare and Waterford lesser lights?

4. Ultimately, which team will lift Liam this September?

Tipp to cement their legacy and dominance of the era.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year when all is said and done?

If Séamus Callanan repeats last season’s form he’s a shoo-in but his broken thumb might see it go to Pádraic Maher.

Malachy Clerkin

1. The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

Galway are definite contenders - but then, when are they not? Tipp are still the right favourites and Waterford didn’t need any more out of the league than they got. It looks a long road for Kilkenny from here.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

Kilkenny badly need a fit James Maher. Photograph: Inpho
Kilkenny badly need a fit James Maher. Photograph: Inpho

It will be interesting to see if Kilkenny can get young James Maher on the field anytime soon. He was the coming man early in 2016 but a freak farming injury has held him back. They could do with him.

3. Is there any prospect of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

Can you even call Wexford a lesser light anymore? Ringside at Wexford Park on June 10th is going to be the place to be. Ultimately, a lack of a goal threat will likely keep their ceiling low but they definitely have a chance against Kilkenny.

4. Ultimately, which team will lift Liam this September?

Tipperary have had their warning and shouldn’t come into any game for the rest of the year as undercooked as they were for the league final. In the right frame of mind, they’re better than everyone else. That should do it.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year?

Séamie Callanan is long overdue.

Ger Treacy (TV3)

1. The league is the league, the championship is the championship . . . . what are we to make of it all? Galway as genuine contenders?

I think so, their consistency has been getting better and better with each game and lifting a national title will stand to them. Tipperary, though, are still very much the team to beat.

2. Which hurler are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s championship?

It’s got to be Joe Canning. He looked to be back to his lethal best in the league and could give a masterclass this summer.

3. Is there any prospect at all of any of the so-called lesser lights causing any shocks to the system?

Well you just never know what could happen with Davy Fitzgerald and Wexford. You just can’t underestimate the Davy factor.

4. Ultimately, which team will lift Liam this September?

I think it boils down to three teams: Tipperary, Galway or Kilkenny. But Tipp have to be the favourites.

5. Who’ll be the hurler of the year when all is said and done?

If Tipp are to win the Liam MacCarthy again, Séamus Callanan will be front and centre. Photograph: Inpho
If Tipp are to win the Liam MacCarthy again, Séamus Callanan will be front and centre. Photograph: Inpho

Tipperary’s Séamus Callanan. The All Star forward was a big loss in the league final and if Tipp are to win the Liam MacCarthy again, he’ll be front and centre.

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