THE main lesson that we learned from last Sunday’s hurling league semi-finals was something that we knew already, Tipperary are top of the pile right now and it is going to be very difficult to dislodge them.
They might very well lose next Sunday’s final to Galway but come the Summer months there is not a team in the country better equipped for the championship challenges that will confront them.
They haven’t really been over-extended to get themselves into the league final and only Cork managed to get past them in a group regulation game when the stakes were not very high for them.
To be fair to Cork that day in Páirc Uí Rinn, they produced a fine effort to secure the victory which might just be of some small benefit going to Thurles on the 21st of May.
However, given the depth of resources now available to Michael Ryan it will take a monumental effort for any team to put one over on them again.
The headline in yesterday’s Irish Examiner summed up Tipperary’s passage to the league final as a result of their win over Wexford, ‘Capable when necessary and crushing when required’.
That was very much Tipp in Nowlan Park last Sunday, they simply moved up the gears when they were required to do so and Wexford were just blown away.
Three players in particular were responsible for Tipp’s march to a final showdown with Galway, the McGrath brothers John and Noel and Brendan Maher.
They delivered the goals which put an end to Wexford’s Springtime resurgence and the most encouraging aspect of the day for the management will have been the form of last season’s captain Maher.
He hardly figured in the campaign up to now but in just one 70 minutes he illustrated his worth to this Tipperary team.
Maybe one of the most surprising aspects of the day was, by his standards, Seamus Callanan’s paltry return of just three points, just two from open play and one 65.
Again it hardly mattered, on this day others took on the scoring responsibility and a final tally of 5-18 told its own story.
Have a look too at who came in from the bench, Michael Breen and Bubbles Dwyer to name just two. Right now it’s very much a case of Tipperary having what Kilkenny used to have, genuine depth on the subs bench.
Wexford did a decent job for a good while last Sunday and they really have been a breath of fresh air in this 2017 league campaign.
However, realism must come into it too and you just don’t graduate on to plateau that Tipp are now on overnight.
They don’t possess the quality forwards that Tipp have and for that matter Galway too.
They will still have a decent chance of making life very difficult for Kilkenny at a throbbing Wexford Park in June.
Whether they can repeat the recent success they had over Brian Cody’s team remains to be seen but they must still be considered a work in progress.
It’s very early in the year yet but already many are predicting that next Sunday’s final between Galway and Tipp will be full dress rehearsal for next September.
Again that may well be the case but predictions in the month of April of what might happen four or five months later can be all too premature.
Galway pushed Limerick to one side at the Gaelic Grounds and was it a case of Limerick being desperately flat or Galway outstanding.
Limerick were woeful, they had no intensity or passion in their play and for their long suffering supporters this was another dark day.
Of course the question that will be posed here in Cork now is, how in god’s name did they put one over on the home side at Páirc Uí Rinn that day.
It was what it was that day and you get those kind of games in the league, those type of results.
Didn’t Wexford go into Pearse stadium and scuttle Galway’s promotion prospects.
Does that outcome really matter now, Galway are now one of the main fancies outside of Tipp for the All Ireland and Wexford are well down the pecking order.
Galway are a serious outfit, have been for a few years now without ever making the long-awaited breakthrough.
In many ways they are similar to Tipp in so far as they have clinical efficiency in front of goal with Joseph Cooney, Conor Cooney, Joe Canning obviously and Cathal Mannion.
Johnny Glynn is back in the equation too which gives them a fair bit of potency up front.
Galway, of course, will remain hurling’s great enigma and that’s the way it has been really since 1988, so much promise and potential and far too many unfulfilled Summers.
Next Sunday’s final promises much with Galway’s need for victory much greater than Tipp’s.
Right now you would have to suggest that the country’s two best teams are in the final but of course that could all change over the next couple of months.
Waterford’s league form was very patchy but it’s been clear for a while now that Derek McGrath prioritised survival in Division 1A and nothing else.
At this point in time, outside of Tipperary, there are more questions than answers with the chasing pack.
So before a ball is pucked in Next Sunday’s National League final here are our current rankings.
1. Tipperary, 2. Galway, 3. Waterford, 4. Kilkenny, 5. Clare, 6. Cork, 7. Dublin, 8. Wexford, 9. Limerick, 10. Offaly.