Leinster SHC preview: Cats to get the cream again

May 11, 2018

Offaly's David King, Dublin's Chris Crummey, Galway's Gearoid McInerney, Wexford's David Dunne and Kilkenny's Eoin Murphy at the launch of the 2018 Leinster senior hurling championship.
©INPHO/Ryan Byrne.

After an extremely close National Hurling League, with four of the six Division 1A teams, for example, tied on six points, the new championship format is sure to see excitement reach fever pitch.

While Munster has been the most level playing field over the past 15 years - due mainly to the dominance of Kilkenny in the eastern province - Leinster seems to be on the rise again.

While the Cats may have come back to the pack a little - although, funny as it sounds, they still won the league - there has been a marked improvement in Wexford in recent years and Offaly showed glimpses in the recent league that they too are on the up under former great Kevin Martin.

Consistency is the Faithful's problem - there was a 31-point swing in their results in the space of a week between rounds one and two of the league and after losing to Antrim they ran Kilkenny to two points in the quarter-finals - but Martin has been working hard on their conditioning and speed of striking, which are basic essentials for any elite hurling side.

Davy Fitzgerald will have the Slaneysiders dreaming of another rising of the moon to match that of 1996 and why not? They are now a serious side with wins over Waterford, Cork, Clare and Galway to their name this season.

All-Ireland champions Galway face a fresh challenge this year in that they are now the hunted and not the hunters and how they cope with it may define them. Will the Tribesmen, gifted with such physique and amazing skills, welcome Liam MacCarthy west again or will their 2018 success be a flash in the pan?

Adding a further layer of intrigue is the Dubs. While Pat Gilroy is best-known as a football man, he's also recognised as someone with huge organisational acumen and that was probably why Dublin plumped for him for the bainisteoir bib.

He tried out scores of players in the league - literally - with mixed results. Other key men were injured, too, so Dublin are very much an unknown quantity.

As of Kilkenny? Brian Cody's men never fold when the battle is at its most intense. That much we know. Reports of their demise have been exaggerated and they remain defiant to the last.

If Cody can wring another All-Ireland out of it, it may be one of the sweetest of the lot. The new group system will test their squad, as it will everyone else's, though.
 
Predictions:

Champions: Kilkenny 

Runners-up: Wexford

Odds (supplied by PaddyPower): Galway Evens; Kilkenny 7/4; Wexford 11/2; Dublin 11/1; Offaly 50/1

Fixtures:

May 12: Round 1: Offaly v Galway, O'Connor Park

May 13: Round 1: Dublin v Kilkenny, Parnell Park

May 20: Round 2: Kilkenny v Offaly, Nowlan Park

May 20: Round 2: Wexford v Dublin, Wexford Park

May 26: Round 3: Offaly v Wexford, O'Connor Park

May 27: Round 3: Galway v Kilkenny, Pearse Stadium

June 2: Round 4: Wexford v Galway, Wexford Park

June 3: Round 4: Dublin v Offaly, Parnell Park

June 9: Round 5: Kilkenny v Wexford, Nowlan Park

June 9: Round 5: Galway v Dublin, Pearse Stadium

July 1: Final, Croke Park

Be sure to follow the hoganstand.com Live Match Tracker this weekend for all the latest action from the senior football and hurling championships.



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