Cats will be re-energised but Limerick remain hurling's top dogs

Cats will be re-energised but Limerick remain hurling's top dogs
TJ Reid of Kilkenny in action against Stephen McDonnell. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SIX became four at Croke Park last Sunday in the chase for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Those who more or less wrote Kilkenny off against Cork were left with egg on their face while Tipperary did what was necessary against a Laois team that can reflect on a very positive championship.

So now it’s Limerick against Kilkenny and Wexford against Tipperary next Saturday and Sunday week at headquarters again.

Some people are mystified as to why the All-Ireland champions Limerick are being given a Saturday night slot and Tipp and Wexford have Sunday to themselves.

Does it really matter, probably not and it certainly won’t bother Limerick or the Cats too much.

So, how is it likely to all pan out now as the four contenders approach the penultimate fence?

Firstly, you would be writing none of the four off and anybody that does is making a big mistake.

Wexford are probably the outsiders of the four because they would not have been rated as contenders at the outset, despite the progress the squad that has been made under Davy Fitz.

But they are the only undefeated team of the four going back to Croke Park even if they did have three draws in Leinster.

You could say that they are in bonus country now after their splendid win over Kilkenny in the Leinster final and it could also be said that they are the team under the least pressure now.

And Fitzgerald has constructed a solid side containing some serious hurlers who will die for him.

Tipp are delighted to be avoiding Limerick and Kilkenny at this stage but they are in no position to underestimate Wexford either.

Their Munster final trouncing by Limerick was worrying but, at the end of the day, Liam Sheedy has them exactly where he set out to have them.

There might be a perception that they were not overly impressive against Laois but you’d take that with a grain of salt.

Laois' Ross King scores a goal. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Laois' Ross King scores a goal. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Reading too much into that game, with respect to Laois, can be misleading as was Cork’s win over Westmeath.

Laois have made huge progress under Eddie Brennan but they were never going to beat Tipp. The one problem Tipp seem to have is that they don’t have the depth of resources on the bench.

Kilkenny, as they showed against Cork, had Walter Walsh, Bill Sheehan and Billy Ryan contributing seven points off the bench.

You might ask what Tipp team will turn up next Sunday week? Will it be the one that blitzed all before them in the Round-Robin stage in Munster or the one that then capitulated so easily in the final.

John McGrath and ‘Bubbles’ Dwyer didn’t score against Laois and their form has regressed since earlier in the season.

So, there’s plenty of improvement to be made from their perspective but that’s not a bad thing going into an All-Ireland semi-final.

The bigger question, though, is can those improvements be implemented?

To Kilkenny and Limerick, the latter look pound for pound to be the best side left now in the chase and when last we saw them in the Munster final they devastating.

But that will be four weeks by Saturday week and Kilkenny have the hugely significant win over Cork in the meantime behind them.

Limerick are now where Cork were for the past two seasons, having that long wait before the provincial final and the All-Ireland semi-final and we know how that panned.

Limerick will be warm enough favourites on the day but that will suit Kilkenny down to the ground as it did last Sunday.

The bottom line has to be, Kilkenny are Kilkenny and you write them off at your peril.

Going into the semi-finals you would be inclined to rank the four teams as follows: 1 Limerick, 2 Kilkenny, 3, no separating Tipp and Wexford.

Tipperary's John McGrath and Richie English of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Tipperary's John McGrath and Richie English of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Kilkenny’s win over a far more fancied Cork team will have energised their prospects considerably and you would be suggesting that the winners of their tie with Limerick will end up with the McCarthy Cup.

But, at the same time, you might be better off keeping your money in your pocket because when you get to this juncture in the year you rule nothing in and you rule nothing out.

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