Replacing a legend is never an easy thing to do and in my eyes, JJ Delaney was one of the best defenders in the history of the game, if not the best. Joey Holden might get the chance to impress on the edge of the square when he returns from club duty with Ballyhale or will Brian Cody turn to Kieran Joyce? With Brian Hogan retired, Kilkenny also have a void to fill at centre back but there’s no better man than Cody to find the answers.
I believe Colin O’Riordan is lining out with the Tipperary senior footballers at this point in time but the hurlers could badly do with his physical strength and power. I watched this guy playing against Clare U21s last year and was hugely impressed. And if Tipp are looking for a long-term full-back, they should take a look at Loughmore-Castleiney’s John Meagher. Tipp have been putting square pegs into round holes at full-back for too long.
This is a huge year for Limerick. The likes of James Ryan, Seamus Hickey and Wayne McNamara aren’t getting any younger and they need to get out of Division 1B.
Some people might think that playing second tier hurling didn’t affect them last year but maybe that extra edge could have got them over the line against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final.
A young player to watch out for this year is Cian Lynch, a potential star of the future.
There’s no doubting the talent in Clare but now Davy Fitzgerald has to really ask hard questions of his players.
And I’d like to see Davy putting pressure on established players by using squad members in their positions during the League. There’s nothing better for a player than to feel the hot breath of competition on his neck and I think that Clare really need this to evolve further. Two other things while I’m at it: Clare have to start winning ball in the air and get better in the tackle because they give away too many frees.
You have to give credit to Derek McGrath – he’s cleaned out the Waterford camp but he’ll be under pressure this year if results don’t follow. If Darragh Fives can get over his injury problems, he could fill the centre back position and players like Jamie Barron and Brian O’Halloran need to step up to the mark now.
Tadhg de Búrca is another good addition. I watched him last year in the full-back line and Waterford also have a solid goalkeeper in Stephen O’Keeffe. The raw material is there but McGrath has dispensed with a lot of experience.
The answer is yes. They seem to think that just because they’re Cork they can go out and beat anyone. That doesn’t work any more because teams are so well prepared at the top level. Cork need to find a full-back because they’ve had a problem there since Diarmuid O’Sullivan left. And their defenders play the game too open. You don’t have to play flashy hurling all of the time; sometimes it’s better to mark your man. Mark Ellis was a good find at centre-back but Cork need someone like him at full-back. And up front, Patrick Horgan and Conor Lehane need to show more consistency.
Joe has lost a bit of form with Galway over the last year or two, whether through injury or not I don’t know. But he has to deliver what Galway supporters think he’s capable of. I know you can’t depend on one player but Joe is Galway’s go-to man and he has to give a bit more. Another question for Galway to consider is can they solve their centre back conundrum? I’d also like to see Galway fans getting behind their team a bit more. They’re washy and seem to give out too much about the players.