The Pecking Order: All 10 teams ranked
Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Friday, 6 November 2020, 15.00
With all teams still in the championship, here's a look at the current pecking order.
1. Limerick: Already looking like an unstoppable force that is already only three games away from winning the All-Ireland. A manageable Munster final against Waterford means that they can already be seen as highly probable All-Ireland semi-finalists. Apart from an incorrect umpire call late in last year's semi-final against Kilkenny, Limerick would quite probably be aiming at a three-in-a-row this year. With injuries to Mike Casey and Richie English, an injury to Aaron Gillane is probably the only player whose loss they couldn't readily absorb. Assuming he stays fit and healthy, Limerick look almost impossible to stop.
2. Galway: After taking apart Wexford, looking silky, fresh and comfortable in themselves, Galway have emerged from the middle of the pack and are arguably the second best team in the country. I expected them to be fitful and unrefined, given that their new management hasn't had much time nor games to work with, but they looked very comfortable against a fancied Wexford, and, given that Tipperary look completely unable to handle Limerick, I would fancy Galway as a team who could put it up to Limerick. Galway have a spread of top-class players and some forwards with searing pace and finishing ability, who would fancy the challenge of coming in as underdogs against Limerick. It's not hugely valuable, but it doesn't hurt that Shane O'Neill has inside knowledge on Limerick and, therefore, can craft a plan to subvert them.
Image: Limerick v. Cork.
3. Tipperary: I anticipated that the under-20 and senior All-Ireland victories would see Tipperary arrive to play Limerick with bolstered confidence and some keen new players; instead, Tipp were completely unable to impose their will on the game and were thoroughly demolished, made look like a mediocre outfit, and didn't introduce any players we hadn't seen before. It was a beating that takes some of the gloss off last year's All-Ireland -- knowing that they haven't beaten this Limerick team -- and probably robs them of some confidence. That said, they have a notable management team who are highly ambitious, strategic and know how to get inside their player's heads so as to get them motoring again. It'll be very interesting to see how the perform against other teams who are within their range and have decent forwards, such as Cork, and they surely won't be as feckless the next day.
4. Kilkenny: Looking pretty familiar and probably requiring an injection of top-class players, Kilkenny are looking like a decidedly mid-ranking team. Where to place them in this ranking is debatable, as most would not fear them and are aware of their reliance on a few key, older players. The Leinster final against Galway will be revealing as to where this Kilkenny team is at, but I would strongly fancy Galway to win that one. Until the likes of Cork or Waterford beat them, Kilkenny are probably entitled to be seen as a top four team.
5. Waterford: A relatively unknown quantity coming into the Cork game, Waterford comfortably took care of a fancied Cork. With Calum Lyons and Dessie Hutchinson in flying form, and new management injecting fresh energy, Waterford will be tricky opposition for any of the mid-ranking teams. That said, it remains to be seen if they can replicate their performance against Cork. I'd place them ahead of Cork because they just beat them, and Wexford because they were poor against Galway, but either team could beat Waterford in the coming weeks.
Image: Austin Gleeson.
6. Cork: A team who I would have seen as a potential challenger to Limerick and the other top teams, they were awful against Waterford. They have some excellent forwards, but they are unconvincing in ways, including not having a settled full- and centre-back. If they can find some form, they are a dangerous team, but they need to be able to produce consistently, otherwise they'll go on as they have for the past few years, getting a good win one day and losing the next to comparable opposition.
7. Wexford: After misfiring against Galway, Wexford looked unrefined and levels below where they left off in the semi-final against Tipperary last summer. David Fitzgerald noted a lack of fight and looked extremely frustrated with the players in his post-match interview. In terms of their qualifier match, Clare would be extremely motivated to take down Fitzgerald's team, while Cork are, on average, just a better all around team than Wexford. Essentially, Wexford need to regain their maniacal energy that has powered them to some famous victories in the past three years, or their goose may well be cooked for 2020.
Image: Lee Chin.
8. Clare: A team in the throes of transition and probably down on their luck, Clare can count themselves lucky to have avoided the Dublin in the qualifier draw as that would have been a 50-50 game, and, if Clare were to lose, would represent a significant low ebb for a team that were strong contenders in as recently as 2018. They've named a more aggressive team for their match against Laois and will be grateful of that draw, which allows them to find their feet, but I can't see them winning their second round qualifier. For the next few years, Clare will languish at this level.
9. Dublin: Plucky, fit and capable of getting a result against most of the mid-ranking teams, Dublin are just outside of the mid-ranking teams. They would benefit from tying down some key positions and building a team that has some key pillars in place, but, for now, they look earnest and a bit chaotic.
10. Laois: Looking like they may not have built on last year, Laois are highly likely to be the first team knocked out when they play Clare. They are an honest team but hurling is unforgiving at the top level and Laois are in that grey zone of being a low-ranking McCarthy Cup team, and a very good Joe McDonough Cup team.