The Tony Considine column: Most counties have no great interest in this hurling league but the little details can add up for the summer

The Tony Considine column: Most counties have no great interest in this hurling league but the little details can add up for the summer
Conor McDonald of Wexford goes up against Tim O'Mahony. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

DO we call this the league or the non-league?

As I said in my preview, who are interested in winning this league?

From what I have seen, and I have seen most of the games, I believe there aren’t too many interested in winning it at the moment anyway.

These games remind me very much of glorified challenge matches or worse, the opening of a new pitch. All shadow boxing going on, and I think the authorities must take the blame for that — they should have left promotion and relegation in these leagues.

I believe teams would have something to play for then. As of now, they are only using it as a training tool.

If some of these games were horse races, most managers would be up before the stewards. And you’d also have a lot of suspended jockeys up for non-trying! The League is a bit of a joke.

However, we have to look at the games and make something out of them.

CORK:

They have had a very poor start, but at least John Meyler is trying to blood new players, and rightly so — some of the U21’s from last year, like Conor Cahalane, Michael O’Halloran, Declan Dalton, Tim O’Mahony — all getting their changes to make this panel.

But I suppose the other players he has brought back, Cormac Murphy, Stephen McDonnell, Aidan Walsh, Jamie Coughlan and Conor O’Sullivan, all players who have been there before.

So people cannot accuse John Meyler of not trying out players for the year ahead.

I believe some of these players will be of benefit to Cork, if not now, maybe in years to come, especially the younger guys.

In my opinion, Tim O’Mahony will be centre-back for Cork if not this year (and I think he should) then for a good number of years in the future.

I believe he has all the attributes to fill that role but he needs to get that experience under his belt.

I also believe that Cormac Murphy should add to this Cork panel and I don’t know the reason why he hasn’t been around for a couple of years as he always had the right attitude and he can play at midfield or in the backline — I think he will be an addition to Cork this year.

Aidan Walsh, who has also been missing for a couple of years, was a very promising U21 player, but went off the radar, but is back again now and playing very well — seems to have improved his hurling — his touch is getting better and also he is a big physical athletic player.

But if he wants to continue to improve he needs to be hurling only. Could be a big asset to Cork yet if he does that.

Conor O’Sullivan, another player who has been missing for a couple of years — I’m not sure the role Conor would play in this Cork team unless Cork will go with a sweeper, and here I hope that they don’t, but that is the only role I would see for Conor with his abilities.

Stephen McDonnell took a year out — its very hard to come back after doing that, especially at inter-county level.

Patrick Horgan and Stephen McDonnell dejected after the Kilkenny. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Patrick Horgan and Stephen McDonnell dejected after the Kilkenny. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Maybe Stephen can do it as he was a very good player and a former Captain and has a lot of experience, but it is a tough task.

But I’d say the player John Meyler is delighted to have welcomed back most of all is Alan Cadogan. Alan was missing last year through injury and was a huge loss to Cork as he could have made all the difference to them winning the All-Ireland.

Provided he is free of injury this year he will be a big plus for Cork.

All in all, I can’t see too many changes in the starting 15, although the bench will certainly be stronger, and they would need to be.

After the Wexford game Cork selector, Donal O’Mahony said that Cork were out-muscled!

This should not be happening. In my time watching Cork play it was very rarely they were ever out-muscled, and I’d say some old players in Cork would cringe to hear that, but maybe there is some truth in it — something to really work on for Donal, John and Kieran, and make sure they are never out-muscled again!

TIPPERARY:

Liam Sheedy creating a lot of hype in Tipp, but is that hype for real? Tipp are trying to find new players as well from their successful U21 team of last year, but I think they are slightly over-rating that U21 title — rather than Tipp winning it, I’d say it was more or less Cork not turning up on the night. 

It will take a while for these players to come through for Tipp, if they do.

But the major concern for Tipp is how long can they keep depending on Pádraic Maher Noel McGrath, Bonner Maher, Seamus Callinan, James Barry and Michael Cahill, to keep going? All of these are there for a good number of years now, and while they have been brilliant servants for Tipp, they are not getting any better of any faster. If anything they are going back a bit. This will be a concern for Liam Sheedy and Tipperary. Very difficult to replace players like those guys.

Willie Connors battles Tom Morrissey, Gearoid Hegarty and Aaron Gillane. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Willie Connors battles Tom Morrissey, Gearoid Hegarty and Aaron Gillane. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

CLARE:

Clare are a team who have found a few players, Diarmuid Ryan, Rory Hayes, Shane Golden, Michael O’Neill, Aiden McCarthy — a lot of young players there, but losing guys like Conor McGrath, Shane O’Donnell who is in the USA, and David Reidy, is not easy.

Hopefully they could be back for championship, but I think Clare needs their top players to come back to top form, especially guys like David Mcnerney, Podge Collins, Peter Duggan, John Conlon, and of course Colm Galvin and Tony Kelly — all at the top of their game and injury free. Big year for Donal Maloney and Jerry O’Connor as this could be their last one.

Clare's Conor Cleary and Conor Browne of Kilkenny. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
Clare's Conor Cleary and Conor Browne of Kilkenny. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

LIMERICK:

The team with the best panel of players, and stronger they are getting, and of course an outstanding manager in John Kiely — keeping a lid on all this is not easy when you are champions, but he is doing a great job on that. Limerick players are showing great leadership all over the field, and an example of that is the condition they have come back in, after winning the All-Ireland.

They are in great physical shape and they seem to have gotten more powerful, and they are not afraid to use that.

Their confidence is sky high at the moment as you would expect from All Ireland champions.

Although John Kiely stated that their priority was not the league, I would not be surprised to see them win it, if that’s what they want.

Their attitude seems to be first class, and competition for places is fierce — even to get on the panel at this stage is competitive — that’s what an All-Ireland win does for a county.

WEXFORD:

They are one of the few teams that would like to do well in this League. As I said before it’s a long time since Wexford have won something — they will be trying hard — trying hard and being good enough are two different things!

KILKENNY:

Even though Kilkenny are thinking bigger things, their manager always likes to have a good league run, but not at any cost. A lot of new players here as well, and a lot of older players to come back in. No doubt Kilkenny will be a challenge for everybody.

DIVISION 1B:

In the other division, Waterford, Dublin and Galway going through the motions, but sad to see Offaly falling behind for all the hurling people.

They have really slipped down in the last few years and that’s not good for the game.

It’s only a short while ago since they were winning All-Irelands, but they are a long way away from that now, and getting longer every year.

Something needs to be done there fast. Offaly always produced some great hurlers and they were as good as any other county.

I have noticed in hurling this year that the hand passing, or throwing of the ball, is happening a lot more, so much so that it’s nearly as bad as football — God help us! It has ruined that so-called game. Just hope it won’t take over our game.

Hope the rest of the league improves — but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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