All 12 senior clubs got to make their opening statement in the hurling league the weekend before last. There was no outstanding contribution, which wasn’t surprising bearing in mind it was the first competitive match of the season, plus the awful cold and wet weather didn’t help things.
Yet, some interesting things emerged. Carrickshock confirmed the general feeling that they will be contenders again, although they might suffer in the short term because of the injury to the heartbeat of their team, Richie Power and Michael Rice, who could be out of action for another month or so suffering from tendonitis of the knee.
Power suffered cartilage damage to his left knee, which was regarded as a relief when measured against the fact that all early indications suggested cruciate damage. He could be back in a month or so. The main thing is that he is on the mend, and we wish him the best of luck.
Championship winners, James Stephens may have been beaten, but don’t make too much of that. They are near perennial challengers for all honours, so expect nothing to change, even if they did fail to score a point from play.
O’Loughlin Gaels made a decent opening statement, decent enough to suggest they should be among the high fliers again. Ballyhale Shamrocks didn’t set the world alight against new boys at this level, Danesfort, but when a serious effort was needed they produced a winning drive, against the gale and all. The injury to Michael Fennelly could complicate things seriously for them, however.
Dunnamaggin and Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) also registered wins, but they will have to add more substance to decent showings before a real opinion can be formed.
The performance of St Martin’s (Muckalee) was interesting, in that they handed out a right hammering to Fenians (Johnstown). Was it that 14-man Martin’s – they had a player sent off in the opening minutes – were as good as the 1-16 to 0-3 scoreline would suggest, or were Fenians just awful?
The truth was probably somewhere in between, but Fenians have an awful lot of picking up to do if they are to survive, it would appear. With J.J. Delaney (dead leg) struggling to be fit, they will be really stretched.
All of which leaves first round losers, Graigue-Ballycallan, Tullaroan, Dicksboro and Danesfort from the top dozen clubs.
Danesfort put in a promising enough showing against Shamrocks that suggested survival was a reasonable goal, but they still have an awful lot of work to do against teams who have a huge advantage in terms of experience. Graigue didn’t inspire confidence. Tullaroan did well when playing against the wind but then fell back on their effort, especially up front.
The ’Boro, who were involved in the relegation battle last season, didn’t make the best of chances so they will have to smarten up in this aspect of play.
A fine crowd attended the James Stephens/Carrickshock match in Thomastown on the Saturday of the weekend, but when the weather took a turn for the worse, the choice between a place in front of the telly and/or the fire won out against facing the brutal elements.
Fans might remember that all the ‘gate’ money from these matches goes straight to clubs, so you are supporting your own by turning out. Don’t turn your back! Enjoy the action.
Tullaroan v Fenians in Urlingford (7pm) – The Walshs’, Tommy, Mark, Martin and Padraig, plus the Mahers, Michael, Stephen and Richard turned in plenty of determined showings last year and in the opening round too without produced results. This is a big chance for them to turn genuine effort into a win.
Lively attacker, Paul Buggy is another one who can help them achieve. Fenians have to step up things appreciably on the last day. If not, they have no hope.
Verdict – Tullaroan.
St Martin’s v Danesfort in Nowlan Park (5.30pm) – Danesfort, even if Richie and Paddy Hogan drive their effort to the maximum, might find here that giving everything doesn’t always earn reward.
Sometimes a difference in class can be impossible to surmount.
Martin’s first round form was promising. If they fail to build on it here it would leave a huge question mark over them. Remember in recent years they opened the campaign by beating Shamrocks, and then they had no follow up?
Form suggests Martin’s have the ammunition to shoot down the opposition.
Verdict – St Martin’s.
Erin’s Own v Carrickshock in Nowlan Park (4pm) – The big question here is how will the loss of Richie Power affect Carrickshock. They will feel the pain, no doubt about it. He is not only a finisher for them; he is the one who helps bring out the best in all around him.
Good news for them is that long term injury victim, John Tennyson, is getting up to the pace of things again, and former county panellist John Dalton is in flying form. The likes of John Power, what a talent he promises to be, Jamie Power, Mark O’Dwyer and Michael Rohan will just have to produce more up front to make up for the loss of Richie.
Erin’s Own, with the Fogartys’, Conor and Damien, driving the cause, won’t be taken easily, but taken they should be.
Verdict – Carrickshock.
Ballyhale Shamrocks v Dunnamaggin in Hugginstown (7.15pm) – In this fixture last year Dunnamaggin took the honours, and Henry Shefflin made his return after recovering from cruciate ligament surgery. Henry won’t feature this time.
He might make the next round. He has opened his heart and explained all about his latest injury (shoulder), so we will offer our best wishes and leave that subject at that.
This is a hard one to call. The loss of Michael Fennelly will hurt Shamrocks big time. Dunna’ have something, and they would have a little more if Noel Hickey (hamstring) lined out. Shamrocks are most certainly not going to slip into the background just because of last year’s county final defeat. They have too much class for that to happen.
A guess – Dunnamaggin, because of Fennelly’s loss.
Verdict – Dunnamaggin.
O’Loughlin Gaels v Dicksboro at Nowlan Park (2pm) – In this fixture last year O’Loughlin’s had a huge advantage over their opponents, and they won handily. Not a lot has changed, it would appear.
The first city derby of the season doesn’t look like bringing about a change in the order of things. Dicksboro would appear to have a bit of improving to do if relegation is not be be an issue again.
Verdict – O’Loughlin Gaels.
James Stephens v Graigue-Ballycallan in Ballyragget (7pm) – Graigue will be facing a wounded lion, so they should know what to expect. ’Stephens management will expect a strong kick back after the opening round loss. The forwards, who failed to score a point from play, can only do better. That ‘better’ should be good enough against a team that looks booked for a trying season.
Verdict – James Stephens.