Hurling Is Back – But Not With A Bang

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Hurling Is Back – But Not With A Bang
By Joel Slattery

The National Hurling League got off to somewhat of an underwhelming start last weekend with two games on Saturday night that failed to live up to even the low expectation of February hurling.
Dublin were the stand-out team of the week – but not in a good way. Frankly, they were shocking. After getting off to a bright start which saw them 0-4 to 0-1 ahead early on, they fell apart dramatically, as they suffered a heavy loss.
Manager Ger Cunningham could do with better performances in the rest of the Spring or else his job could be under pressure. With rumours of discontent in the Dubs camp, they could do with getting a decent result this weekend.

However, I don’t want to take too much away from the All-Ireland champions. Tipp were impressive in their first run out of the year. After electing to sit out the Munster Senior Hurling League, there was always a chance that there would be cobwebs.
The rustiness only lasted a matter of minutes, however, as when Tipp got on a scoring run, there was no stopping them. Despite Waterford-Kilkenny (which we will get to later) being the game of the weekend, there can be no doubt, that the All-Ireland champions are clearly the number one team in hurling at the moment.

Saturday’s other game saw Cork play Clare in a game that also failed to inspire, unless you like watching players hitting wides – then it was great! Jokes aside Cork have potential and after taking January’s pre-season competition as seriously as any team in the country, they have shown that they want to have a big 2017.
They have exciting forwards and it will be interesting to see how their defenders get on when tougher tests are put in front of them.
With Davy now in Wexford, Clare can do something they haven’t done in a while – fly under the radar. There should be no ‘getting to know you’ phase with the new management however, as the players know the joint-managers from their time with the under-21s.

Nobody will lose any sleep after Saturday night’s loss but the Banner will be hoping that one defeat doesn’t become three or four as they look to settle into form before the Championship kicks off.
Sunday’s repeat of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final was always going to be the game of the weekend. As we eluded to, it didn’t have much competition, but this was a fascinating tie. Waterford’s win was great for their confidence.

The only thing missing from this Waterford team is beating Kilkenny or Tipp in  big Championship match, but defeating the Cats two years in a row in the NHL, will give Waterford an immense amount of belief heading into the summer.
For the Cats. They have nothing to worry about. They lost a match – they don’t lose many and, in fairness, it was a much bigger game for the Deise than it was for Cody’s men.

Analysts tried to point out flaws to their game but at the end of the day, they had a shot to force a draw that just didn’t work out.
Overall, it wasn’t the best start to the league – but boy, are we glad hurling is back.

Joel Slattery

Sportstalk writer

Photo credit: Irish Independent

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