Peter McNamara analyses the Allianz NHL matches and selects three notable features from the top two tiers.
1. Cork’s goalscoring output
Season after season in recent years, Leesiders have bemoaned Cork’s inability to set the world alight in terms of their goalscoring record.
Raising plenty of white flags was never an issue but generating an effective number of green flags always seemed to be outside their compass.
However, throughout this Allianz NHL Division 1 campaign so far, Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s side have scored nine goals in five games at an average of 1.8 goals per match.
That is a magnificent return.
Patrick Horgan celebrating one of his two goals against Tipperary yesterday.
Patrick Horgan plundered two of those majors for the Rebels yesterday while Conor Lehane and Paudie O’Sullivan, with three in two games now, are also showing themselves to be hungry for rocking the net.
If Cork can maintain this clinical approach in the weeks and months ahead, repelling them will be extremely difficult.
Cork have registered a total of 9-113 which is a remarkable tally and JBM will be quietly delighted that people cannot level the argument of Cork being low goalscorers at him and his selectors presently.
The Rebels are an extremely dangerous commodity in this form.
Yes, they did relinquish a 12-point advantage over Tipperary at Páirc Uí Rinn however the bigger picture is brighter.
2. Tipperary’s power in reserve
Eamon O’Shea needed to locate high-quality back-up players to complement his starting 15 if Tipperary were going to add blocks to their development process in the close season and it certainly seems as if he has found what was duly required.
O’Shea now has the luxury of introducing players such as Patrick Maher and James Woodlock while Conor Kenny, another of those that entered the fray from the bench yesterday, pilfered a levelling point at a crucial juncture against Cork.
Patrick Maher in action against Clare recently.
Of course, Maher will be one of the first names on O’Shea’s team-sheets in the summer months but the point is Tipp would have found engineering four league wins out of five difficult in his absence in previous campaigns.
Whether they have usurped a full-strength Kilkenny as favourites for the All-Ireland title is a question for another day but, currently, there is absolutely no doubt the Premier County men are the most fluid team in the business.
Additionally, there exists a steely edge to Tipp presently that could be the difference between them being crowned All-Ireland champions and finishing on the pile of sides Brian Cody’s outfit have dismissed when the ultimate honour is within touching distance.
3. Progress of Waterford and Wexford
True, one of these sides will be competing in Division 1A next term and the other will be still situated in the second-tier, but the development of both Waterford and Wexford has been duly noted.
Liam Dunne, of course, will be dejected today at the prospect of missing out on promotion.
However, once the initial disappointment subsides the Slaneysiders’ supremo will surely appreciate Wexford are very much on the right track.
Fleetingly, in the past two years at senior level, Wexford have displayed their capabilities with a number of high-octane performances.
As their development curve evolves, consistency will follow and competing in Division 1B will not have done them any harm this year.
Will Wexford beat Cork in the league quarter-final next Sunday afternoon? Probably not.
Yet, that should not detract from pluses such as the willingness of players like Jack Guiney and Liam Óg McGovern to take on the responsibility of driving the team forward as well as the ruthlessness displayed to date in 2015.
Conversely, Derek McGrath will be ecstatic with regaining a spot in the top-tier.
Both sides are generally quite young though, so patience from all sides will be critical for the players.