What's going, and what isn't, for the top-10 teams chasing Liam MacCarthy in 2020

What is the grist for the mill among the 10 Liam MacCarthy Cup teams in 2020? From Tipperary looking to roll back the years to the 1960s to Cork hoping to avoid the county’s joint-longest stretch without the Liam MacCarthy Cup, there is plenty to go around, writes John Fogarty.

What's going, and what isn't, for the top-10 teams chasing Liam MacCarthy in 2020

What is the grist for the mill among the 10 Liam MacCarthy Cup teams in 2020? From Tipperary looking to roll back the years to the 1960s to Cork hoping to avoid the county’s joint-longest stretch without the Liam MacCarthy Cup, there is plenty to go around, writes John Fogarty.

Tipperary

You can imagine the return of Patrick “Bonner” Maher to the training field this coming spring will provide a huge fillip for the group. Few are more dedicated than Maher and the group know that.

For a squad whose depth was questioned at the start of the championship, their bench belied that school of thought in the semi-final and final.

Working with a smaller group possibly because of budget constraints, Tipperary will have to be leaner in plenty of ways and two or three new faces as regular starters may be required.

What’s going for them: Liam Sheedy. Vital that he stayed around for potential seconds.

And what isn’t: History. The two-in-a-row is notoriously difficult thing to do.

Kilkenny

Almost an entirely new management team will take their places behind Brian Cody this coming season and DJ Carey has obviously attracted the most interest.

As Christy Heffernan said in these pages not too long ago, he - and Martin Comerford - will bring the first attacking voice to the set-up in a long time.

Responsibility has to be shared more evenly around the forward line if Kilkenny are to bridge the five-year gap without the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

What’s going for them: Brian Cody. Nobody will be more fuelled to go all the way.

And what isn’t: Tipperary have the same problem - most of their best players are north of 30.

Limerick

Losing to Kilkenny having been pretty incredible in the Division 1 and Munster finals would have been a real sickener for a group oozing vibrancy.

But then they had lost twice in the provincial round-robin stages and the much-lauded half-forward line looked a pale shadow of itself in the All-Ireland semi-final.

The column inches Limerick have attracted in recent months will remind many of how they shot themselves in the foot with their glittering U21s in the early 2000s but John Kiely should ensure that doesn’t happen again.

What’s going for them: Anger. Limerick should rage against how they have gone from being the headline to a punch-line.

And what isn’t: Out of licence - they’ve lost the patent on intensity.

Wexford

The noisy neighbours that have become a thorn in the side of Kilkenny in the Davy Fitzgerald era, Wexford showed this year that they want to be defined by more than the Cats.

That first-half display against Tipperary showed all that they are capable of but they were unable to sustain it and ultimately couldn’t cope with a 14-man opposition.

Fitzgerald has made them into the side few want to play but they have to evolve into something more to go all the way.

What’s going for them: Their bond. That spirit is, dare say, Kilkenny-like.

And what isn’t: Ruthlessness. It’s the last thing to come to a growing team but is it in them?

Cork

From Tipperary, Kilkenny and Galway who are all getting on to Limerick wanting to show they are still the future to Clare who don’t want to be known as wasted talent, so many teams have genuine inspiration for 2020.

Cork don’t need to be told that 2005 may as well have been in the last century.

Winning Munster is not going to do anything for them - Limerick and Tipperary certainly did well enough without it - but making Páirc Uí Chaoimh a fortress would be something to take into the All-Ireland series.

What’s going for them: The band back together. Okay, maybe not the originals but Kieran Kingston (can inspire.

And what isn’t: Lack of aggression. Cork regularly fall behind in those stakes and it kills them.

Dublin

A case of doing the hard things easy and the easy things hard for Dublin in 2019, it will have killed a diligent management team that the players could be so complacent as to lose to Laois.

Their flatfootedness on the day spoke of an attitude problem and there remains a mental block that Mattie Kenny will have to address if silverware is to come their way this coming year.

What’s going for them: School of hard knocks. Dublin haven’t had a lesson like that dished out by Laois since losing to Antrim in 2010.

And what isn’t: Firepower. Dublin have the spine to be contenders and the physicality but need a sharper spear.

Galway

Although they were aggravated by how Micheál Donoghue was allowed to leave, the more senior Galway players will have been dissuaded from putting their head above the parapet after what happened following the Anthony Cunningham stand-off.

They may have won but then it wasn’t long before Donoghue was in and the then elder statesmen were surplus to requirements.

Galway were bitterly unlucky in 2019. It could be for them what 2018 was for Tipp.

What’s going for them: Pedigree. Too many All-Ireland final appearances to let one fallow summer set them back.

And what isn’t: Age. Not the only ones facing this chestnut but it’s a factor for new manager Shane O’Neill.

Clare

If you were to offer Clare a first Munster title in 22 years now and a Munster title alone would they take it? In their heart of hearts, we would suggest yes and who could blame them? A provincial crown would mean more to the Banner than any of the other four contenders and Brian Lohan knows it.

Let matters take their course after June but Clare won’t give a fiddlers about the poor record of Munster champions in the All-Ireland series - it will be all guns blazing for May and June.

And Tony Kelly must play more advanced.

What’s going for them: Depth. Clare retain a fine squad.

And what isn’t: Schedule. Clare have the worst sequence of matches in Munster.

Waterford

A ball has yet to be hit in anger in his tenure and Liam Cahill (below) has already caused a stir in Waterford when it seemed there was little need to.

Was due diligence done? Cahill and Michael Bevans have proven to be a formidable double act, winning three under-age All-Ireland titles and at the time of his appointment it was rightly regarded as a coup.

Making Waterford hard to beat again will be the primary objective but then the patience of older players for more than that will be thin.

What’s going for them: Low expectations. Still so much quality in the panel and they have to be sick of losing.

And what isn’t: Defence. There may be too many proven backs missing by the time May comes around.

Laois

Winning the Joe McDonagh Cup final didn’t surprise many and as for what followed Eddie Brennan will point out there were tell-tale signs in the league when Dublin narrowly beat them by two points in the final round game.

Laois were already among the big boys yet they come into greater focus this summer.

How the games are lined up for them won’t help them but what Eddie Brennan will seek is performances more than anything else.

What’s going for them: Cohesiveness. A bright manager and a team who respond to and respect him.

And what isn’t: No surprise element. Laois will be respected more in 2020 perhaps to their detriment.

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