Hurling predictions: Who will lift Liam MacCarthy this summer?

Our writers make the big calls ahead of this year’s hurling championship

Galway captain David Burke lifts the Liam MacCarthy cup at Croke Park last September. Photograph: Inpho

Galway captain David Burke lifts the Liam MacCarthy cup at Croke Park last September. Photograph: Inpho

 

Seán Moran

Do you expect the new provincial format to be a success?

Yes. Hurling is currently very competitive in Munster and more so than usual in Leinster. Given the small number of elite counties, there was always a need for more fixtures. It changes the nature of championship from big collisions to a more even tempo but the best teams will emerge.

Are Kilkenny back on top? What should we take from the league?

Kilkenny got the most out of themselves in the league but are still a work in progress. One thing that was obvious during the league was the number of players being tried out by many counties - a reflection of the expected demands of the round-robin championship format.

Who’s your tip for Hurler of the Year?

Galway are unlikely to retain the All-Ireland without a good campaign from Joe Canning but his role has become more integrated in recent years - one of the reasons that they’re champions - and it would be possible for a team-mate to outshine him individually. Someone like David Burke, who has the quality to deliver a big season.

Cork were the surprise package of 2017 - who will it be this summer?

In a congested Munster championship and with Tipperary coming to the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick can continue to rise.

And at the end of it all, who’ll lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup?

When champions plea-bargain away their league campaign, it’s easy to get suspicious but there are valid reasons for Galway to have idled a bit after last year’s double. Proven power, pace and marksmanship are a fair combination.

Nicky English

Do you expect the new provincial format to be a success?

Yes. There’s been no change in the championship for a while and this is real change. I think it’s going to be exciting. It increases the pressure on players with matches week in, week out. It won’t be all good news for those who like to watch games, as the tight schedule means it won’t be possible to see a lot of them. But overall it’s better than teams being behind closed doors all the time. It’s also uncertain, which is good as well. Nobody knows how it’s going to turn out.

Are Kilkenny back on top? What should we take from the league?

It’s not that long since Kilkenny were on top so seeing them back in the league was no great surprise. They’ll be competitive but I’d temper judgement on the national league. It was played in very poor conditions - winter rather than spring hurling - and there was a doubt about form. Counties were also deepening their squads with the new format in mind so the 2018 league mightn’t be as reliable a championship indicator as it was between 2001 and 2017. Kilkenny have to be viewed in that context.

Who’s your tip for Hurler of the Year?

Limerick’s Cian Lynch is a value bet for Hurler of the Year. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Limerick’s Cian Lynch is a value bet for Hurler of the Year. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

This depends a lot on who wins the All-Ireland and the new format makes that very open. TJ Reid is the best player at the moment but I looked at the list of contenders a while ago and for me the value bet was Cian Lynch from Limerick. He’s a great hurler and I fancy Limerick to do well.

Cork were the surprise package of 2017 - who will it be this summer?

After getting to a league semi-final, maybe Limerick aren’t that much of a surprise but unlike 15 years ago when they also did well at under-21, the current crop have more forwards and greater scoring power even if they need to cut down on wastage. Those players have also played a very important role in the success of Limerick colleges in the Fitzgibbon.

And at the end of it all, who’ll lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup?

It’s hard to make a call on Galway at the moment in that I’d have concerns about their energy levels. If they can hit the stride they hit last year, they will win but if not, it’s anyone’s - including Limerick’s.

Malachy Clerkin

Do you expect the new provincial format to be a success?

Definitely. Which doesn’t mean there won’t be apocalyptic levels of moaning about it, of course. The best teams will play each other and the best of them will progress. What’s not to like?

Are Kilkenny back on top? What should we take from the league?

I don’t think they’re on top but they’re in a better place than they were in early February. The only thing we can take from the league is that it’s hard to hurl in the snow.

Who’s your tip for Hurler of the Year?

I would say Conor Whelan but the last seven winners of the award have broadly played down the middle of the pitch. So I’ll take a swing at Brendan Maher at 80/1.

Cork were the surprise package of 2017 - who will it be this summer?

The group format cuts down on the chances of a surprise team going on a run from nowhere but maybe Wexford can squeeze into another Leinster final and possibly even win it.

And at the end of it all, who’ll lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup?

Everyone comes with multiple questions attached. I suspect more of the answers lie within Tipperary’s panel than elsewhere so I’ll take them to make amends for 2017.

Keith Duggan

Do you expect the new provincial format to be a success?

There is a danger that the round-robin stages will run out of steam but the steady concentration of games around different venues will breathe life into the provincial system.

Brian Cody used the league to breed winning habits. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Brian Cody used the league to breed winning habits. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Are Kilkenny back on top? What should we take from the league?

Was never convinced they ever went away. They are back in the sense that all teams will be highly wary of meeting them. It will be no surprise if they feature in the All-Ireland semi-finals and after that, muscle memory will kick in. The league just further confirmed that Brian Cody sees it as an opportunity to breed winning habits.

Who’s your tip for Hurler of the Year?

David Burke, Galway. When he is song, so it is with Galway.

Cork were the surprise package of 2017 - who will it be this summer?

Limerick could give it a go this summer and in a strange way, it may be surprising if Waterford can return to the heights of last year.

And at the end of it all, who’ll lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup?

Galway.

Ian O’Riordan

Do you expect the new provincial format to be a success?

If it doesn’t snow in May and every game stays as close as they promise to do, then absolutely. Even better than the real thing.

Are Kilkenny back on top? What should we take from the league?

With six wins from their last six league games, including the final, they’re unquestionably going in the right direction, but September is still a long way off.

Who’s your tip for Hurler of the Year?

If it comes down to influence and importance and consistency then TJ Reid should be there or thereabouts.

Cork were the surprise package of 2017 - who will it be this summer?

Not sure if Wexford still count as a ‘surprise’ package but they will have a longer say again than last year, and Limerick too are knock, knock knocking . . .

And at the end of it all, who’ll lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup?

Galway? Tipperary? Kilkenny? Okay Tipperary . . .

Seamus Callanan will be the centre of attention for Tipperary. Photograph: Inpho
Seamus Callanan will be the centre of attention for Tipperary. Photograph: Inpho

Eamon Donoghue

Do you expect the new provincial format to be a success?

The quality of hurling is improving year-on-year and more games will add to that improvement. But as a neutral there’s a familiarity that dulls the excitement, and this won’t help in that regard. It’ll also lessen the chances of a surprise package claiming provincial glory.

Are Kilkenny back on top? What should we take from the league?

Kilkenny never went away. They’ve made some tactical tweaks and showed that when it goes to the wire they still have it over most teams. The likes of Galway and Tipp will hope that they will come in fresher for an extended championship.

Who’s your tip for Hurler of the Year?

Seamus Callanan. He should have won it in 2016 and if Tipp do as well as I expect them to this year, a fully fit Callanan will again be at the heart of it all.

Cork were the surprise package of 2017 - who will it be this summer?

This year’s championship will certainly change things, requiring teams to peak for longer, but recent seasons have shown us that league form is relevant. Even Cork had a promising league last year. Based on that Limerick could cause a few upsets. Consistency remains their biggest challenge.

And at the end of it all, who’ll lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup?

Backing anybody but Kilkenny is never wise, but on their day Tipperary remain the best team. Getting their key players fit and firing will be essential, but they should have plenty of hunger and focus after the league final and last year’s defeat to Galway.

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