Setanta Sports pundit and former Offaly hurling star Daithi Regan reviews last weekend's action in the Allianz Hurling League.
With the shadow boxing of the pre season competitions over it was good to get into some competitive league action over the weekend. It was a mixed bag in terms of the quality on show but players and managers will just be relieved to finally get some serious hurling under their belts in 2014.
I was covering the Cork and Limerick game in Páirc Uí Rinn for Setanta Sports on Saturday night and, I have to say, I was disappointed with the level of hurling produced even allowing for the drama of the final ten minutes.
It was a poor enough game but Jimmy Barry-Murphy will be wondering how his side only managed to take a point from the game from such a strong position after Graeme Mulcahy’s sending off.
I thought Cork were lacking a bit of savvy and they completely failed to take advantage of having an extra man for fully 45 minutes. Limerick packed their defence and all too often the Cork forwards ran down cul de sacs instead of creating space for each other. What they should have been doing was drawing in the Limerick defenders before slipping the ball off to the man in space who could have popped the ball over the bar.
That said, fair play to Limerick and their management team who came up with an effective plan B after the sending off. They played like the proud Munster champions that they are and it will give them a lot of confidence going forward in the league.
In the other Saturday night game in Thurles, Derek McGrath will have been disappointed to leave Semple Stadium empty handed after his Waterford side had led against Tipperary for most of the game. They dominated the opening half in a game that many expected Tipperary to win quite comfortably but should have built a bigger lead by half-time.
There were a lot of positives for the new manger but ultimately an unfortunate goalkeeping mistake cost his team any chance of taking something tangible from the game.
Tipperary won’t be thrilled with their performance but any time you can play poorly and still beat a good Waterford team you will definitely take it. I was impressed with Seamus Callanan who really stepped up when the game was in the balance in the second half and showed great leadership to drag his team over the line. He has flattered to deceive somewhat in the past, but Tipp fans will be hoping he can show a level of consistency in his performances in 2014.
The game of the weekend was undoubtedly played in Ennis where both sides really tore into one another. There were a number of new faces in Brian Cody’s side and they created enough chances to win the game but fell short in the end. Understandably, both sides looked a little rusty but the intensity they brought to the game is not something we’re used to seeing in the first round of the league which made it very enjoyable.
Clare played with the swagger and belief of All-Ireland champions and I’d say Davy Fitz had them well wound up before the game. He knows better than anyone that they can’t afford to let their high standards drop an inch if they are to go on to defend the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Kilkenny came prepared for the battle and gave it a right good go so I don’t think Cody will be too unhappy overall.
I was delighted to see King Henry hit the ground running as well. After a difficult 2013 for himself and the team, he looks to have come back as hungry and as determined as ever which bodes well for Kilkenny’s season.
In Pearse Stadium, Anthony Daly will have been disappointed with the manner of his side’s capitulation but I wouldn’t be writing Dublin off just yet. I think the league will be taking a back seat to championship preparation in 2014 after last year’s missed opportunity in their heartbreaking defeat to Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final.
On the other side, I don’t think Galway will be getting carried away with the emphatic win. There have been countless false dawns in Galway hurling since the turn of the millennium and Anthony Cunningham will be desperate to get his team back up to the level they were at in 2012.
Well done to the referees
Something I would like to point out from the weekend is the quality of the refereeing which I thought was excellent. All too often referees are crucified by managers and by people in the media who should know better but they deserve the plaudits after the weekend.
There has been a lot of talk recently about how the game is refereed and cards but I think the way they have it now is fine. I certainly wouldn’t like to see the black card brought into hurling and, from a transparency point of view, it’s important that the yellow and red cards are there to remove any confusion among players and viewers.
Loughnane out of order with Offaly comments
A final point on Ger Loughnane’s comments on the Offaly hurlers – it has been talked about to death but I’ll just say that I don’t think he should have made them. I have the utmost respect for Ger as a hurling man and for what he has achieved but these lads are amateur players and they didn’t deserve to be embarrassed in public like that whether it’s Offaly, Killkenny or the local junior Bs.
Most importantly, the hurling year is up and running and I’m looking forward to all the twists and turns up ahead.
Daithi Regan is a pundit with Setanta Sports, broadcasting 14 exclusively live Allianz League matches this season. The Setanta Sports Pack can be bought for €199 per annum or customers can pay monthly for just €19.99. To subscribe visit Setanta.com/gaaoffer or call 0818 20 30 40.