Hurling rankings: Tribe top the lot
06 September 2017
Galway players celebrate with the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
With the Liam MacCarthy Cup now safely nestled across the Shannon until next year (at least), we’ve ranked all 14 teams that battled it out in this year’s All-Ireland senior hurling championship.
There can be no arguments here. Galway delivered their first All-Ireland senior victory in 29 years on Sunday gone past and were hands down the best team in the country this past season. The signs were there from Micheál Donoghue’s men around the midway stage of the National League, but once they laid down an incredible marker in April’s final against Tipperary the hurling landscape was altered. Joe Canning stepped up to plate immensely in the August rematch with the Premier men and Waterford’s best efforts couldn’t topple the Tribesmen on the biggest stage.
Despite an agonising defeat on Sunday, Waterford hurling has seldom been in a better state and while Derek McGrath looks to take time to decide on his future, the county’s supporters should be eagerly awaiting 2018. A first championship victory over Kilkenny in 58 years was backed up by fine performances against Wexford and Munster champions Cork, respectively. If those three wins didn’t underline the Deise men’s status among hurling’s elite than their spirited showing against Galway at the weekend certainly did.
This time last year Tipperary were top of the pile but they fall down the pecking order behind the All-Ireland finalists here, having slipped up between the end of spring and start of summer. To the surprise of many, their 16-point demolishment at the hands of Galway in the National League final wouldn’t be redeemed when they faced Cork in the first round of the Munster championship. Westmeath in the qualifiers wasn’t as straight forward as many would’ve imagined either and while Seamus Callanan helped them rediscover their goal-touch against Dublin, the cracks were still their against the Tribesmen in August when they finished second best in an epic.
A first Munster title in three years was certainly the highlight for Cork during 2017, having done it the hard way with victories over then All-Ireland champions Tipperary, Waterford and Clare along the way. Kieran Kingston’s team were superb in their outings down south this past summer and, understandably, entered into a rematch with Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-finals as considerable favourites. That’s where the season journey ended for the Rebels but expect them to be back at the business end of things again next year, with a couple of talented minors also on the way.
Huge strides were made under Davy Fitzgerald in 2017 and although there is no clear indication as to whether or not the Clare man will be staying at the helm, supporters of the Model County can be optimistic at the present. Promotion from Division 1B of the National League, two wins over Kilkenny (between league and championship) and a first Leinster final appearance since 2008 gives the Slayneysiders plenty to build on.
It wasn’t a summer to remember for Kilkenny fans with their team’s losses to Wexford and Waterford, respectively, bringing a premature end to their championship. Brian Cody will go back to the drawing board with his players though and they’ll be keen to hit the ground running in 2018, having lost the opening two rounds of the National League this year before defeating Dublin in round five to ensure safety in the top flight. The Cats’ only victory of the championship afterwards would come in the form of a 0-20 to 0-17 struggle over Limerick on their own home turf.
After surviving Division 1A of the National League, Clare featured in a first Munster final in nine years in July when Cork emerged victorious over them. The Banner County would be paired with Tipperary in the last eight of the All-Ireland series, pushing the then holders close before eventually falling to a 0-28 to 3-16 defeat at the newly re-opened Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
John Kiely’s first year in charge of the Shannonsiders saw them miss out on league promotion, with both Wexford and Galway finishing above them, ahead of exiting the championship after putting up a fairly decent show against Kilkenny at Nowlan Park.
Relegation from Division 1A of the National League and a 22-point hammering to Tipperary in the championship eventually led to Ger Cunningham’s decision to step down after three years in the capital.
Kevin Ryan quit his post as Offaly manager in mid-July, stating afterwards that there was too much “negativity” within the Faithful County. His team shipped a massive 1-35 to Waterford in Tullamore in their exit from the Liam MacCarthy Cup race.
Laois held on to their Division 1B status for 2018 in the spring and scored wins over Westmeath, Meath and Kerry before Wexford sent them into the qualifiers and Dublin put an end to their summer. O’Moore boss Eamonn Kelly will be hoping for more improvement from his players in his second season.
A superior score difference helped the Lake County through their Leinster Qualifier Group and while Offaly ousted them at the provincial quarter-final stage, Michael Ryan’s charges would go on to put up a brave battle against Tipperary in the qualifiers. Marksman Allan Devine notched 0-38 for them in the championship.
The Kingdom were relegated from Division 1B of the National League but held on to their top tier championship status at the expense of Meath. You get the feeling a good league campaign next season will be imperative for Fintan O’Connor and his players.
Last year’s Christy Ring Cup champions had a mixed bag in 2017, winning the Division 2B National League title before finishing bottom of their Leinster Qualifier Group on points difference. Manager Martin Ennis resigned in July and the Royals have recently appointed Waterford native and Kildalkey clubman Nick Fitzgerald, who steered the county to an All-Ireland MHC B crown last month, as his successor.