Ahead of the revamped Munster SHC DENIS HURLEY ranks the five competing counties
The strongest scoring options and the deepest squad, both of which are likely to be important factors in the frenetic nature of four games spread over just five weeks. Jason Forde emerged as a talisman during a league campaign in which Michael Ryan’s side scoring seven goals with nobody else getting more than five.
But, if the league is to be taken as a stronger indicator than normal given that the structure resembles the new championship, there must still be question-marks about Tipp’s temperament and ability to win close games. Losing the final to Kilkenny showed that they’re not there yet, but it could also prove to be the motivating edge they need.
A ranking based on recent championship performances rather than the league, but manager Derek McGrath as good as made clear that they were training with the summer in mind rather than dead set on retaining Division 1A status.
That they will be in Division 1B next year is down to injuries to key players as much as anyone, but that lack of squad depth could prove to be a drawback during the championship too, especially as they have lost Kieran Bennett in recent weeks.
There have been times where they have tried to set up in a more conventional formation, but until they record a big win doing that, there is likely to be a tendency to lean on the sweeper system as a crutch. Also need to settle on a position for Austin Gleeson.
A low placing given that they are the defending champions and the bookies have them as second favourites, but like Waterford, Cork need to show that there are enough bodies beyond the starting 15 to put up a sustainable challenge.
Allied to that is the fact that the element of surprise, such a boon for them last year, is now gone and opponents will set up to counteract the attributes which Cork used to such good effect last year.
An unspectacular league won’t be too much of a concern, especially as it ended with a win, but Cork were the only county to allow more than 100 points, and that tally was 112, while they need to get away from a scoring reliance on Patrick Horgan.
The Shannonsiders are regarded as the dark horses after a successful Division 1B league campaign which saw them overcome All-Ireland champions Galway. If everyone says you’re the dark horses though, do you become a few shades lighter?
John Kiely’s side scored eight goals in five games and then took both Clare and Tipperary to extra time in the knockout section, allaying fears that a young team would be found wanting in terms of
However, it’s not for nothing that the cliché exists that league is league and championship is championship.
Harsh perhaps to have them bottom but in a group of five somebody has to be – as Cork proved last year, the journey from fifth to first can be a very quick one.
Tony Kelly was quieter than usual in the league and could do with a rest, but that did mean that others like David Reidy and Peter Duggan picked up the slack.
Having started with three wins, they lost their last two games and then fell to Limerick in the quarter-finals, albeit after a shootout – arresting that slide is imperative.