MAYO’S resounding victory over Kerry in the NFL last weekend was another illustration of the inconsistent nature of the secondary competition in both codes.
There is no certainty of what’s going to transpire from one week to the next. For various reasons, counties are fielding understrength teams and it’s difficult to give a true reading of what’s going on.
A team can be in flying form one day and are completely out of sorts the next day. At this juncture it’s a case of expecting the unexpected.
Team managers are in experimental mode which adds to the uncertain nature of the league, but at the same time they expect a reaction after a disappointing loss.
One poor performance followed by another has to be a concern for any management, therefore it’s how you react subsequently is very important.
Cork hurlers have no such concerns at the moment, two wins from two outings and another victory expected on Sunday against Westemeath. Tipperary are in a similar position, a 100% record ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Dublin.
It’s a case of so far, so good for some counties but not with others, Clare falling into the latter category after their desperately poor performance against Limerick.
Team boss Brian Lohan must have been concerned afterwards and he will surely want a positive reaction against Wexford on Sunday.
It has to be factored in that Lohan was without key players against Limerick; Tony Kelly, John Conlon, and Shane O’Donnell, but the overall performance was just not good enough.
They did get it back to six points at the end, but that was only after their neighbours allowed the temperature gauge to drop coming down the home stretch.
That can happen; a team not being at the level of preparation that will be required in the championship and subs being introduced who would not be at the standard of the players they are replacing.
You don’t know what to expect and the nature of the league was evident too in the Dublin and Antrim clash. The Dubs were cruising to victory with five minutes remaining, leading by 10, but when the final whistle sounded they were ahead by three and hanging on.
The entire league picture will become a bit clearer after the weekend and we’ll have a better idea of who might be the participants in the last four.
Cork and Tipperary are in prime position to occupy two of those places, but things can change very quickly.
While Cork have the maximum four points from two games, the next four teams in Division 1A are on two points each, with Westmeath adrift at the bottom and likely to remain there.
On paper, the game with the most potential this weekend is Limerick versus Galway, a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.
While John Kiely would have been happy enough with how Limerick put Clare to the sword, Henry Shefflin would not have been so after their loss to Cork.
Similar to the Limerick and Clare game, when Limerick were clearly the dominant force, Cork were against Galway, but a few late scores from the home team in Salthill put a different complexion on the scoreboard.
Galway are perceived by many to be Limerick’s main challengers to the latter’s bid for four-in-a-row later in the year and they did run them close in last year’s semi-final.
In saying that, Cork should have beaten Galway in the quarter-final.
This is a very big season for Henry Shefflin in Galway. Some sort of silverware has to be a priority this time, given the richness of the talent in the county at underage level in the past number of years.
Shefflin, similar to Lohan, will want a reaction from his players after their defeat and despite it only being the league, two losses in a row has to be a concern. This could be the game of the weekend.
Elsewhere, Tipp’s visit to the capital to face the Dubs should be interesting too. Micheál O’Donoghue’s team have three points from four, so a win would see them overtake their Munster rivals and be a major boost to their confidence levels.
Waterford should bag the points against Antrim at the Fraher Field and it will be interesting to see if Waterford’s man behind the wire will be in place again.
That situation has certainly created a bit of a stir with Davy Fitz stressing that he is not there to tell the goalkeeper where to place his puck-outs. He says that he is there to get a message to the corner-back, out to the half-backs and that seems to be fair enough. In the past, the Maor Foirne was able to do that, but that’s not allowed anymore.
To be honest, is that guy behind the wire doing anything really wrong? I don’t think so, and come the championship it will hardly be happening because of a crowded terrace.
Laois are unlikely to get too much change from Kilkenny in their league outing, all the more so because new Cats’ boss Derek Lyng will want his players to get back on track very quickly after the disappointing loss to Tipperary.
Lohan will want a big response against Wexford although that might not be easy in Wexford Park.
So, for what it is worth here are our weekend hurling predictions.
Tipperary to defeat Dublin, Cork to defeat Westmeath, Kilkenny to see off Laois, Limerick to add to Galway’s troubles, Waterford to bag the points against Antrim, and Wexford to get the better of Clare.
But then again, the inconsistent nature of the league might raise its head again.