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The So-Called Weaker County Radar #1

The first of our columns giving credit to the counties competing at the lower end of the spectrum, in a weekend of upsets and nearly-upsets.

Regularly over the summer, we’re going to cast an eye to goings on in the lower tiers of hurling as well as keep tabs on how the so-called weaker counties are doing in the football championships, with aim to keep readers informed on life below the The Sunday Game highlights barrier and give credit where credit is due to teams and players that are so often overlooked.

Limerick

Say it ain’t so… Limerick – a dual county? Not yet, but the footballers took a major scalp in the Munster Championship this past weekend when they beat Tipperary in Semple Stadium. They’ve accomplished this with over 50 players having turned down the opportunity to line out for the county, and others such as Gearóid Hegarty picking up the hurley instead. It’s an amazing achievement for a side who were in the bottom two of the entire national league in 2018, and again this year having picked up a couple of wins.

Tipperary have just been relegated from Division 2, but it’s encouraging to see that lowly Division 4 teams can mix it every so often. They may not be as good as three or four seasons ago when they reached an All-Ireland semi-final, and have been decimated by travel and injury since, but they’re still fiercely competitive and will be badly hit by this defeat. They may have overestimated the Shannonsiders, but the Limerick boys won’t care as they enjoy their moment in the sun while the hurlers take the weekend off. What’s more is they are more than capable of doing it again against a struggling Cork team in the semi-finals.

Offaly

The Offaly footballers nearly pulled off a massive scalp at the weekend away to Meath. The Royals, fresh from promotion to Division 1 this past spring, had been signaled as a side on the up and a potential threat to Dublin’s dominance in Leinster, but Offaly gave them a rude awakening in Páirc Tailteann, leading by four points in the later stages until a late surge from the Meathmen. Not to be on this occasion, but encouraging signs for the big ball in Offaly.

Roscommon

The Rossies hurlers, promoted from 3A to 2B, beat Kildare by two points in the Christy Ring Cup. Not a huge achievement, considering Kildare themselves are a 2B level side, but then cast your minds back to last year’s Christy Ring Cup where the Lilywhites destroyed Roscommon by 26 points. A remarkable turnaround from the Rossies, year on year, to show how much ground can be made from the sides at the lower end of the spectrum.

Tyrone

The Red Hand men very narrowly missed promotion this past league from 3A to 2B, but have popped up in the Nicky Rackard with a fine 1-15 to 0-15 win over Mayo, of 2A status. Mayo dropped down from the Christy Ring in 2018 and Tyrone – losing semi-finalists in last year’s campaign – welcomed them with a very hard fought victory in Healy Park.

READ | Winners & Losers: Tipperary, Greg Kennedy and Leinster contenders

Wicklow

Another Leinster minnow pushing the big boys all the way, as Wicklow were defeated by Kildare by two points. Similarly to Meath, Kildare needed a late surge to overcome The Garden County and progress to the next stage of the Leinster Championship. Are the likes of Kildare and Meath underestimating their opposition, with one eye on bigger and better things, or is the gap narrowing? Dublin shouldn’t be too concerned on this evidence. Huge credit to Wicklow for making a fight of the game.

Waterford

The Déise picked up three wins down in football’s Division 4 this spring, which wasn’t enough to progress any further up the ladder. They gave Clare a might huge scare as they lost narrowly by a point in Cusack Park, with the Bannnermen thinking they can give Kerry a good run for their money in the semi-final. Again, maybe they had one eye beyond the Waterford minnows, but the Déise had other ideas, and were very close to adding another cataclysmic result to the Munster Championship.

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