Power ranking the 35 teams in hurling
The league is just around the corner, so what better time to rank all 35 teams and see where they stand going into 2019.
It’s that time of year again, where we foolishly try to arrange each team in an order of merit nobody is realistically going to agree with. The hurling league is just around the corner. Players around the country are dusting off their boots and trying to pair two matching socks ahead of grueling training sessions under lights. Before we know it we’ll be getting soaked to the skin and suffering from bouts of pneumonia in grounds around the country.
There’s 35 teams currently competing at senior inter-county level. Not all of them can compete to win the All-Ireland, and most who can most definitely won’t. The drop off from Division 1 teams to the rest of the pack is stark, highlighting just how elite hurling has become. You could try and make an argument for 10 potential All-Ireland winners, but in reality only six or seven will have the final say.
2018 is still fresh in our memory, so the basis of the ranking will hold much to what happened last year. But we’re going to try and play psychic and, taking heed of what has changed during the off-season, give teams credit for a potentially good 2019. Offaly, at a lower level, should enjoy a better 2019 results-wise. Tipperary should show serious signs of improvement under new management. We’ll check back intermittently throughout the spring and into the summer and adjust the rankings accordingly. For now, here is the inaugural list for the 2019 season.
In previous years, one would predict a down year for an All-Ireland winner, especially a winner that had so long to wait for championship honours. But this year is different because of the new championship format, which means teams are no longer facing lose-and-you’re-out games in provincial action, meaning teams have more time to settle themselves should they stumble.
From a league perspective, Limerick are back in 1A but that shouldn’t take much of a learning curve as they proved they can beat all of these teams last year. Regardless, Limerick were the best team in Ireland in 2018 and thus begin 2019 at the top of the ladder.
On paper from #1 to #15 Galway are probably the best team in the country. Champions in 2017 and finalists in 2018, they enter this year with that panel still in tact and as the bookies favourite to go one better again in 2019.
As successful as Galway have been recently, it’s still a very important year for the Tribesmen. It will be Micheál Donoghue’s fourth year in charge and anything less than another finale may trigger an end to his superb reign. Joe Canning is only 30 years of age, but has posted back to back incredible seasons and will be eager to add another medal to his back pocket. There’s loads left in the tank, a young forward line and one of the finest back lines in the country – anything less than an All-Ireland success may seem like a failure.
2018 was a down year for Tipp hurling, nobody needs to remind you of that. Failing to get out of the Munster group stage was disappointing to say the least, and some of the performances thrown in were abject at best.
Yet here they are, third in our rankings at the start of 2019. That’s how pivotal the return of Liam Sheedy is to the fold, having left after going all the way in 2010. It’ll be a huge task to get this Tipp team firing like that of 2016 and early 2017, but not an impossible one. The talent is there in spades.
Another year goes by without All-Ireland honours for a team that often seems on the periphery but can’t seem to drive any further. Yet they are Munster champions after an unbeaten provincial campaign. A repeat would be a fine achievement, and to go one better in the semi-final would be fantastic.
Fourth may seem lofty for a Kilkenny team supposedly in transition, but last year they won the league and were two points off eventual winners Limerick in the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland. It took an incredible few minutes of hurling from the Shannonsiders to overcome the Cats, and barely squeaked through in a cracker down in Thurles.
The word transition doesn’t exist in Brian Cody’s world. He’s had one year to blood some of the supreme young talent Kilkenny has to offer, and got some of the old elite back from injury. They’ll have a huge say in anything that happens this season.
Clare fans I’m sure will feel aggrieved to be so low here, having gotten to the Munster final and been pipped only marginally by Galway in an All-Ireland semi-final replay. So we’re going to be extremely heartless and suspect they won’t be capable of improving on that in 2019. We hope they prove us wrong, because they have some of the finest hurlers in the country.
It was about a down a year as one could get for the Déise. Relegation to 1B and buried at the bottom of Munster without a single win, which all led to the inevitable departure of Derek McGrath. Padraic Fanning has big boots to fill. It would be hard not to improve on 2018 however, especially down in 1B, and Waterford have perhaps the biggest room for improvement on last year.
It’s hard to envision Wexford producing anything better than what we’ve seen the past few years under Davy Fitzgerald. It seems they are destined to be bridesmaid behind Galway and Kilkenny in Leinster, and be too good not to go down, but not good enough to win the Division 1A grouping.
Dubin showed some signs of progression under Pat Gilroy last year, and that rug seems to have pulled from beneath them after his premature departure at the end of the season due to work commitments. Staying alive in 1B and in the Leinster championship (unlike Offaly) makes their 2019 much more bearable, but difficult to see them improving much further than safety once again under Mattie Kenny.
Victory in last year’s Division 2A final sees Carlow enter the lofty heights of Division 1B. Winning the Joe McDonagh however was the real reward for their efforts, as they now enter the Leinster championship and will compete at the elite level with Galway and Kilkenny. How that goes remain to be seen – it would be fantastic to see them hold their own and close the gap between the top tier and the chasing pack.
Relegation from the Leinster championship illustrated how torrid a time Offaly hurling is having. It’s hard to believe that in most of our lifetimes they have won two All-Ireland titles. For our older readers, maybe three. For the really old fogies here, four.
Second best in Division 2A, winning the group before losing to Carlow in the final. Lost to Carlow in the Joe McDonagh Cup final too, so will be hoping to go one better one both counts this year.
Still a Division 1B team having survived in the relegation play-off against Antrim. Were disappointing in the Joe McDonagh, and the loss of Ross King in 2019 will be hugely difficult to overcome.
Middle of the road in Division 2A, and accounted themselves well in the Joe McDonagh. 2018 showed a good platform that could spring Kerry towards bigger and better things in 2019.
A very disappointing year that saw them drop from 1B and finish second last in the Joe McDonagh. Just about hung on there having beaten Kildare, the Christy Ring winners, in a play-off. They should have enough to improve on both counts this year.
They had a dismal league campaign, getting relegated from 2A without a single win. But then they stormed to victory in the Christy Ring Cup, demolishing teams along the way including London in the final. Were unlucky to come up against an Antrim team who were up against the wall.
Middle of the road in Division 2A, but got dumped out of the Joe McDonagh without a single victory.
Just about survived 2A, made the Christy Ring Cup final where they were defeated soundly by Kildare.
Made a good account of themselves all year, finishing third in 2B with three wins and reaching the Christy Ring semi-final where they lost to London. They should fancy a strong charge at both again this year.
A prolific team that obliterated the competition in 2B, but laid an egg against Mayo in the final means they must do it all again this season. They beat London in the Christy Ring and were unlucky not to get out of the group. 2019 should see more Ws in the win column.
Got promoted from 2B having beaten Down, but failed to win a single game in the Christy Ring and will be now be hurling in the Nicky Rackard in 2019.
The Nicky Rackard champions and solid in 2B. 2018 was great and should be able to deliver a decent account of themselves in 2019.
Derry were dismal in the league, failing to win a single game until turning it on impressively in the play-off decider against Armagh. Did well in the Christy Ring however, losing to Kildare in the knockout stage which proved to be no insult.
Were superb in Division 3A, winning promotion for the first time. Had a fine Nicky Rackard campaign as beaten finalists.
Had some huge wins in 3A, but couldn’t string games consistently. Beat Mayo in the Christy Ring and went no further than the group stage.
Relegated from 2B and from the Christy Ring – 2019 should be an improvement on 2018’s dismal efforts.
Made the semi-finals of the Nicky Rackard where they were soundly beaten by Warwickshire. Fared well in 3A also, with three wins, and will be aiming for a similar run in 2019.
Monaghan reached the semi-finals of the Rackard too, before losing to Donegal. They fared slightly worse than Tyrone in the league, with only one win, so will be keen to show signs of improvement from that platform.
Had a decent league, winning two games and drawing two but losing to Warwickshire in the final. Fared much worse in the Rackard however, losing all three games and but surviving against Leitrim in the relegation play-off.
Stormed to victory in 3B, beating Leitrim in a thriller in the finale, and also reached the Lory Meagher final before losing to Sligo in the final. A tremendous year in 2018, capping off quite an unbelievable one for the British sides.
Lory Meagher winners with a fine performance against Lancashire, only won two games in the league however so the goal will be to follow in Lancashire’s footsteps towards 3A.
Relegated without a fight from 3A, and little impact in the Nicky Rackard.
Took Lancashire all the way into extra time in the 3B final, but lost to Louth in the Nicky Rackard relegation play-off sentencing them down to Lory Meagher level for 2019.
Struggle to score points, finishing second from bottom in both the league and the Lory Meagher.
Not a single win all year in the league or Lory Meagher, Fermanagh sit right at the foot of the table for 2019.
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