The League may be only a week old, but there’s already much to ponder.
1. Penalties have been taken. Players remain alive.
The semi-hilarious, semi-ridiculous, wholly unbelievable campaign to outlaw what a small child would call “hard shots” from the 21 metre line took something of a blow last weekend when nobody was decapitated by one of the flying sliotar-missiles despatched by various players in the different games. Will life ever be sane again, mused Morrissey in a quite different context many years ago. On the evidence of the gibbering and howling about the “health and safety” issues faced by hurlers all of a sudden, it looks highly unlikely.
2. Black and amber warning (sorry).
Kilkenny have not gone very far back into the pack, it seems. The rush to not bury the Cats but to warn one’s peers that they hadn’t gone away at all, in fact, seems to have been fully justified.
Ahead of last weekend’s narrow defeat by Clare we were in Nowlan Park for Brian Cody’s annual chat to the media ahead. As part of that chat he listed a string of absentees whose back pockets would produce enough gold to enthral any jeweller in the country. Players like Jackie Tyrrell, Richie Hogan, Richie Power, Brian Hogan, Michael Fennelly are due back for Kilkenny, and there are, no doubt, a few more that don’t come to mind. Interesting times to come, then.
3. The hunt for consistency. And scores.
Also in the department of what we spoke about last weekend, a lengthy chat with Anthony Daly of Dublin, in which he said there was no time the Dubs couldn’t be going well with the small ball.
Last Sunday was the perfect illustration of that: defeat at the hands of Galway puts the men in light blue under pressure, and facing a stressful couple of outings to put points on the board.
What was probably more worrying for Daly and his selectors was the scoreline their players produced: 1-12 wouldn’t offer much comfort, not when the other crowd scored 28 times.
Mind you, in the opposite corner . . . a new beginning or a new inconsistency? Galway have mastered the art of raising your hopes just ahead of dousing you in cold water.
In fairness to Anthony Cunningham, the Portumna lads are away — as always — and thus the whole exercise of the league takes on a faintly unreal air anyway.
Pointers about Galway in the summer? Use the usual postcard. Use the usual words.
4. Something for everybody.
We’re sorry now we weren’t in Thurles on Saturday night, first, because we just like being in Thurles, and second, because Waterford-Tipperary had all the hallmarks of a win-win for both managers. Derek McGrath saw his side put in a decent performance, outworking Tipperary early on, and the scoreline was unduly harsh on them due to that late goal. The downside was the addition of a couple of players — Maurice Shanahan, Seamus Prendergast — to an already lengthy injury list. The fact that those are two of the bigger forwards available to McGrath only compounds the problem. On the other hand, Eamon O’Shea can take solace in the improvement his players showed on the far side of half-time, and in particular the involvement of Noel McGrath, one of those rare talents that almost demands an entire team be aligned to exploit him to the fullest.
Further up the field Seamus Callanan only confirmed his standing as a danger near goal: if O’Shea can sharpen Callanan further in the ensuing league games then the campaign will be an unqualified success.
5. The second tier remains alive.
Division 1B is going to stay interesting, at least, thanks to the lack of a winner between Cork and Limerick. When we made that point to TJ Ryan and Jimmy Barry-Murphy last Saturday night both smiled, though for different reasons. Limerick were happier with the point, having played almost 40 minutes with 14 men, but they were solid and supported each other and deserved their point. Cork didn’t miss Seamus Harnedy or Conor Lehane, when he went off, as much as they missed Conor O’Sullivan, whose calm distribution hurt Dublin and Kilkenny so much last year when they had men sent off. Oh, and Anthony Nash didn’t kill anyone. Everyone happy, then?
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