BETWEEN Division 1A and 1B in this year’s Allianz National Hurling League, four of the counties feature managers from Tipperary.
Laois, Wexford, Antrim and, of course, Tipperary are all being led by men from the Premier in the 2023 season.
Both Darren Gleeson with Antrim and Darragh Egan with Wexford have some time under their belts at their respective adopted counties, while Willie Maher starts from scratch with Laois, and Liam Cahill returns to his native Tipp for his first stint as senior manager with a panel he knows pretty well.
Liam Cahill has managed underage Tipperary sides for years with his right hand man Mikey Bevans. In 2016, they guided Tipp’s minors to an All-Ireland title beating Limerick in the final. The pair were also the masterminds behind Tipp’s under 21 All Ireland winning teams in 2018 and 2019.
Cahill was in charge of the Waterford senior hurlers in the intervening years, and with them reached an All-Ireland final and an Allianz National League final, but he decided not to seek another term with the side this season.
There was some controversy surrounding his appointment with Tipperary as his predecessor Colm Bonnar was dismissed, a year into what was meant to be a three-year term in charge.
Given his knowledge of the players on the panel from his time as minor and under 21 manager, there are big expectations on Cahill.
The calibre of his backroom team of Bevans, Pádraic Maher, Declan Laffan, TJ Ryan and Tony Browne will only increase those expectations.
However, given the lack of game-time many of the younger panelists saw in recent years since their transition to the senior panel, Tipperary could have to play the long game.
Willie Maher has enjoyed considerable success in management, with his career trajectory somewhat similar to Liam Cahill’s. Maher guided the Tipperary minor hurlers to an All-Ireland title in 2012, and subsequently progressed to the Under 21 job. He was also linked with the senior job before Colm Bonnar was appointed for the 2021 season.
He has had success with Dublin club-side Cuala, guiding them to two Dublin senior hurling titles in 2019 and 2020. He was also a selector with the Waterford senior hurlers in 2014. His time with Waterford has obviously paid dividends as Dan Shanahan has come on board with Maher in Laois this year.
Laois also go into 2023 in Division 1B of the Allianz National Hurling League, having maintained the standard under Cheddar Plunkett last season, and will be up against Antrim, Dublin, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Waterford so Maher will have his work cut out.
Meanwhile, given the strides the Leinster side have made in recent years, they can certainly have high expectations for the Joe McDonagh cup this year.
Wexford are a team who can turn over any of the big teams when they’re on form, and as Darragh Egan moves forward in his second year in charge at the Leinster side, he has set his sights on a major prize.
Egan, who was previously part Liam Sheedy’s All Ireland winning backroom team with the Tipperary senior hurlers in 2019, has set winning the Leinster senior hurling title as his side’s goal for 2023. He looks to be focusing on that and widening the player pool throughout the league campaign, though he says Wexford will be going out to win each and every game.
Wexford always have the potential to become a surprise package, and with Egan into his second year there they could be in a decent position to build on the work done up to now. Unfortunately for Egan though, he faces a number of setbacks this season as a number of panelists head abroad for a period, though some are expected to be available later in the year. A couple of more players have also stepped away from the panel. A Leinster title will be a tough ask.
Antrim are a team on the up under Darren Gleeson who goes into his fourth season in charge of the Ulster side.
Antrim stayed in Division 1 hurling after they beat Offaly in last year’s relegation play-off, and they have the potential to progress further this year. They can build on that, as well as their success in the Joe McDonagh Cup Antrim won’t be expecting a Leinster title this year, but cementing their status in the championship will have given them the confidence to push forward in 2023.
The team will also be buoyed by the Antrim and Ulster champions Dunloy’s qualification for the All Ireland Club final after beating Galway’s St Thomas’.