Last Thursday evening saw the draw for the 2013 GAA hurling provincial championships. The Daily Shifts Joe Slattery has more…
The draw, which took place in Croke Park and broadcast live on RTE television threw up more than a few interesting match-ups. Though it may have come just days after the replayed all-Ireland final, for most counties, preparation for next year is well under way. Now that hurling fans have had the weekend to reflect on their drawn opponents, it is now the time to look at the draw in detail at who could potentially cause a stir in Championship 2013.
We’ll start in Munster and their senior hurling championship where there are two matches that are repeats of the 2012 competition. In the quarter-final Clare will be seeking revenge against a Waterford side who were last year’s runners-up in Munster. The Banner, who have a young and up-coming team, will feature many of this years victorious under 21 team who beat Kilkenny in the final recently.
The winner of that match will play Cork. The Rebels, who surprised a few in reaching the all –Ireland semi final last year will set their sights on going one step further in 2013. They will want to do so by taking the direct route – avoiding the minefield that is the qualifiers. They will have to make do however without the rising prospect that is Darren Sweetnam who recently signed a contract to play rugby with Munster’s academy.
In the other semi final the only division 1B side in the competition, Limerick, take on defending Munster champions Tipperary. The Premier County are looking to do the three in a row in the southern province. However, Limerick, like Clare, have many rising stars including sharpshooters Shane Dowling – who was leading scorer in the championship in July – and Declan Hannon, who scored 11 points for his club Adare in last weeks county final.
Though the pundits will write off Limerick, they should have beaten Tipp this year and if they can learn from the experience there is no reason why they cannot progress to a provincial final in 2013.
To the ever expanding Leinster championship. Having welcomed Galway and Antrim into the Eastern province over the last few years, 2013 will see London make their Leinster championship debut. All eyes will be on reigning Galway, who shocked Kilkenny in this year’s final, before losing to the same opponents in the all-Ireland last month.
As defending champions of the province, Galway have a bye into the semi final, where they will face Antrim, Westmeath, Laois, Carlow or London.
Because of the way the draw panned out one of the so called “minnows” will be in the semi final. This should mean that Galway will be in another Leinster final. However, the long wait for a championship match could count against them when they play a side in their second or even third championship encounter.
Antrim and Laois had shocking campaigns this year both suffering embarrassing defeats to Limerick. The Treaty County even put 50 points (8-26) on Laois. Carlow have yet to show us what they can do at this level. Their first round tie pits them a potential banana skin match with Christy Ring cup winners, London. The Exiles won last years second tier event with wins over Mayo, Derry, Down and Wicklow after being beaten by Meath in round 1.
Westmeath will probably be favourites to meet Galway in the semis. The Lake county gave the Westerners a scare last year when an inspired Niall O’Brien scored 2-7 before Galway pushed on for a 10 point win. On the other side of the draw the traditional powers all come together.
Offaly, who have struggled in recent years, drew the short straw and will have to play all-Ireland champions Kilkenny. The Cats will be looking to regain the provincial title and will be confident of getting a positive result against the Faithful County. The winners of that will play the winners of the Wexford/Dublin game. The men from the capital will be looking to get back to the Leinster final in 2013 and know they will need two big victories to be a part of the Croke Park decider.
Both Dublin and Wexford are in division 1B of the National Hurling League so their league encounter could be a big game physcologically before they meet in the championship.
Yes championship 2012 may be only just over but teams and supporters alike are already eyeing up next year’s action.
Can Tipperary and Galway keep their titles? Will new teams like Limerick, Clare and Dublin make the step up? Or will we go back to the traditional powers of Cork and Kilkenny claiming provincial honours once again? Only time will tell.