Sunday 19 January 2020

Results matter for hurling's top heavyweights

Tommy Walsh
Tommy Walsh

And so we reach that point in early summer where hurling results begin to feel weighty.

Almost without warning, last year's All-Ireland finalists - and the teams ranked one and two for this year's Liam MacCarthy Cup, according to bookies and pundits alike - face crucial weekends as they bid to progress their 2019 ambitions.

Limerick, League champions this spring without missing a beat after their All-Ireland win, could be effectively out of the rest of the hurling summer if they lose to Clare on Sunday, provided form holds in Cork's meeting with Waterford.

And should Galway lose at Nowlan Park - also on Sunday - they would need to beat Dublin in Parnell Park just seven days later to ensure participation in the All-Ireland series.

"I think on the last day of the season, it could be like the Premier League where anyone can get through," notes Kilkenny legend Tommy Walsh.

"Leinster and Munster is going to go down to the last day, more than likely, at this stage.


"Having Galway going to Parnell Park, like, when I was hurling and when we were dominant over Dublin, we never liked going to Parnell Park," he says, echoing broad consensus among the inter-county hurling fraternity.

"It was hard to come out of it with a win. You wouldn't be putting your money on any team.

"Wouldn't it be unreal for hurling, a classic up there in Parnell Park. It probably only fits 6,000 or 8,000 people. The noise levels alone would be unbelievable.

"There's talk then of trying to get Joe (Canning) back, the whole build-up would be unbelievable, 'Will he be back? Won't he be back?'

"I think it will be great for the game of hurling if it does go down to that last game between Dublin and Galway."

Kilkenny, meanwhile, are sitting pretty and could seal a spot in the Leinster final should they beat the Canning-less Tribesmen on Sunday.

From being five points down against Dublin at Nowlan Park in their provincial opener, their path has cleared and Walsh is of the opinion the the controversial incident where Dublin selector Greg Kennedy caught a TJ Reid free was the spark for it all.

"It was never going to stand anyway because the referee was talking to a Dublin player," he points out.

"But it's amazing how something small can ignite a crowd, I've never seen them as boisterous as they were after that.

"It was like a home crowd should be," concludes the Tullaroan man.

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