Hurling league throws up tasty quarters and pointless playoffs
Meaningless encounter between Cork and Kilkenny could prove fruitful for both
Wexford’s Liam Ryan with Liam Blanchfield of Kilkenny as referee Alan Kelly falls to the ground. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Another Sunday of lamentable weather presented hurling to be endured more than enjoyed. When the blizzards cleared, it was Cork and Kilkenny who found themselves squeezed out of the running in the 2019 Allianz League, filling the bottom two spots in the Division 1A table after defeats to Tipperary and Wexford respectively. Everyone else moves on to the knockout stages, Cork and Kilkenny go to play a relegation decider that isn’t a relegation decider.
To explain. With the redrawing of the leagues for 2020, there is no official demotion from 1A at the end of this league. However, the teams are down to play a final game anyway in order to establish fifth and sixth place. Officially, the GAA have said it will be played next weekend, although Brian Cody seemed to suggest after their defeat in Wexford Park that a coin-toss may be in the offing.
“All I know is we were asked during the week whether we were happy to let one team go into one group and the other go into the other and I certainly would think that would be the sensible thing to do,” Cody said. “It would be a futile match really but whatever happens, happens.”
Thing is, circumstances arising out of yesterday’s games might make it useful to both Cork and Kilkenny to play the game after all. Both teams had men sent off on straight red cards – Seamus Harnedy for Cork and Conor Delaney for Kilkenny. With any putative suspensions carrying over to championship, it might suit all around to get the game played next week and clear the slate for the summer. The CCCC will reveal all on Monday afternoon.
What is certain at least is the quarter-final lineup. Wexford’s reward for beating Tipp and Kilkenny in their final two group matches is a trip to Salthill to face Galway. A late Shane Bennett goal for Waterford meant that Galway finished in third spot in 1B, so Wexford will be heading west.
“Yeah, for beating Kilkenny we get Galway in Galway, fair play,” smiled a rueful Davy Fitzgerald after Wexford’s 1-19 to 1-12 win over Kilkenny. “For coming second that’s a good way to go. It’ll probably be a small bit hard to rise it.
“They’re not going to be happy campers next week. They’ll be coming out to prove a point but you know what, we’ve got to meet them challenges. If we’re serious about doing something, no matter how thick Galway are, we’ve got to meet it head on and go after it and let’s see what the story is.”
Waterford’s victory buys them a quarter-final against Clare, with a coin toss for the venue. And Tipperary’s emphatic 1-29 to 1-16 win over Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn buys them a home quarter-final against Dublin.
At the bottom end, the result of the day went to Carlow who came back from 11 points down at half-time to beat Offaly by 2-14 to 1-16, despite playing most of the game with 14 men. It means that they survive to play in Division One next year. It means Offaly are relegated to Division Two for 2020, with Westmeath swapping places with them.