Limerick still looks to be top guns among six shooters

There are only six teams and three weekends left in this breathless inter-county hurling season. Still, it appears that Wexford was setting the pace in the league for a while and Limerick was struggling for traction.

And although both teams are still standing, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then. Here we rank the half-dozen standing in the race for Liam McCarthy.


1. Limerick

Perhaps as the league progressed, there was a growing sense that Limerick was in a tailspin that they could not recover from. Even a draw against Claire and a win over Offley in the closing round did little to change the perception that they simply weren’t in the running. Some asked whether his intense hunger for silverware was finally satisfied?

But as an indicator of his championship form, his league performance proved to be extremely unreliable. Three wins and one draw from four outings at the Munster final show Limerick, as well as an extra-time win over Banner, retain the authority over the last few seasons.

They’ve also shuffled the deck, moved some key pieces around and introduced new faces several times but the results remain the same. They are miles ahead of the rest of the field with speculators and will have to put up a remarkable show to prevent further silverware harvesting. We are now at the stage where this Limerick team is being talked about in the same breath as the great Kilkenny side. This comparison is not strange.

Pros: Limerick has a lot in their favor from form, personnel, size, athleticism, and conditioning (as seen after the last photo of Munster from inside the Limerick dressing room that garnered so much attention). He found himself just two wins away from three All-Ireland titles on spin and a quarter in five years, from stammering league form and the recent absence of talent like Sean Lynch.
Cons: It’s nearly impossible to make a case against John Keely’s men.
He said: “They are taking massive steps in that direction” – former Kilkenny star Eddie Brennan on whether the current Limerick side can be compared to the legendary Cats outfit he played for.

2. Claire

Like Limerick, Claire seems to be timing her run. Brian Lohan’s team won just one out of five matches in their league campaign, but they are second on the list based on their performances against the Green Giants of Limerick.

Three times he has come up against John Keely’s men and three times he has stood tall. If the draw in the league can be discounted given Limerick’s form at the time, there is a huge incentive to avoid draws in the round-robin stages of the Munster Championship and extra-time defeats in the provincial finals as well as Tony Kelly. He has a man touched by greatness. The support act around that isn’t bad either.

Pros: Speed. Although their Munster final ended with a loss, they can take a lot out of their performance against Limerick and, refusing to take a knee, they look like a side built in the image of their manager.

Cons: The road is dangerous from here, even if he has a good recent record against this weekend’s opponents Wexford, whom he has beaten three times in the championship since 2018. Rory Hayes and Peter Dugan were only cleared to play on Wednesday night and won. Helped with the preparations.

He added: “It puts pressure on us for the next two weeks – mentally and physically to recover from it. We have to prepare ourselves for two weeks’ time; We’ll see how it goes” – Brian Lohan speaking after his side pushed Limerick to the brink in the Munster final.


3. Kilkenny

Perhaps some noise around the handshake-gate and the seemingly damaged relationship between Brian Cody and his most decorated on-field lieutenant Henry Sheflin has been torn apart by this, but Kilkenny has welled his way into the All-Ireland semi-finals. have reversed them, a group stage defeat to Galway to lift the Bob O’Keefe Cup for the third time in a row. A boost came from the emergence of Mickey Butler, the man of the match dismissed last time, while he pulled Padrigue Walsh and Walter Walsh off the bench in that win over the Tribesmen.

Pros: Looks like they’re improving on the hoof, avoiding two defeats at Leinster to within just one win of Hurling’s biggest day.

Cons: They are the Leinster champions but in terms of quality at Munster, is that too big for them to bridge the gap?

He added: “They were angry, Kilkenny, and even the post-game celebration showed a release of satisfaction” – former Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins on the Cats’ victory over Galway.

4. Cork

Among the handful of teams you can throw a blanket at, the case can be made that last year’s All-Ireland finalists should be high on the list. They seem to have turned a corner since their morale-boosting win over Waterford, which saw them swooped in to finish third at Munster. The last time their win over Antrim in Belfast was their season in the microcosm where they had to work hard in their first half before completing the job in the second half. If Patrick Horgan’s role is to come off the bench, as he did in Belfast, he is a great choice for the home stretch.

Pros: Has pulled his season by fire and has some top-notch performers.

Cons: Like Galway, their way back to the All-Ireland final looks brutal, while their talent is not in doubt, can they regularly play to their potential?

He added: “They are all good bowlers. Everyone is committed, dedicated, good stick man. It just needs to come together for 70 minutes, everyone is playing for the cause” — former cork hurler Mark Landers on Anthony Daly’s podcast Irish Examiner,


5. Galway

Leinster’s unbeaten return kept Henry Sheflin’s Galway project ahead, but his provincial final feels disadvantageous, not least because it has plunged him down a dangerous back-door route. They will be injured in their damage way to Kilkenny and they will need to harness that injury to get the cork out. There will hardly be anything in that game that will define the seasons of both the teams.

Pros: With athleticism, speed and the All-Ireland winners still involved, they have the tools to make life difficult for anyone.

Cons: Not for the first time, the question remains whether they can be consistent and ruthless to thrive at the highest level. Like Claire, Galway only knew Ciannan Fahy would be available late Wednesday night.

He said: “You look at Galway’s performance in the Leinster final, (it) was very flat and some of their key actors – Joseph Cooney, Tom Monaghan, Cathal Manion – they are the key guys and they didn’t perform in that game.” Jackie Tyrell Leinster lost to Kilkenny in the final after Galway.


6. Wexford

It’s been a strange season for Wexford. They accounted for Limerick, Clare, Galway, Offaly and Cork in their first five competitive outings of the year with an average margin of about five points, but they came in the league semi-finals badly against Waterford.

They seem to have not fully recovered from this as they have won just two out of five at Leinster. Still the Stars aligned for them and they qualified on score difference over Dublin, despite losing to Matty Kenny and winning fewer games. They have been on the wrong side of games against Claire on three occasions since 2018, but Wexford always takes the chance of at least one puncture.

Pros: Firepower. In Lee Chin, Rory O’Connor and Connor McDonald, their attack could cause problems for anyone.

Cons: Consistency. Wexford drew with Westmeath and then defeated Kilkenny at Knowln Park within just a week.

He said: “Claire’s has been building up significantly over the years under Brian Lohan, and we know what we’ll face at Thurles next Saturday – but we’ll be prepared for it” – Wexford boss Darragh Egan.