It is impossible to talk about this years’ Hurling Championship without first talking about Limerick’s domination of the sport over the last few years. With three wins in four years, they are now reaching Kilkenny level of dominance and looks set to continue for a few years at the least.
The All-Ireland final was over before it began with Limerick showing their greatness and playing Cork off the pitch after a tight opening 20 minutes. It was a one-sided affair that we hadn’t seen in an All-Ireland final for some time, and one must think who is there to stop them and looking around the country my conclusion would be no one. That is provided Limerick keep up their high standards and no other county improves beyond belief.
Cork was probably the surprise package of the championship, with them finally making it to their first All-Ireland final since 2013 this coming after taking a step back last year and not making it to the quarter finals. It was progress for the rebels, but you must feel that no one can get close to Limerick any time soon and the All-Ireland final defeat showed just that.
For other counties it was more of a mixed bag, with Galway having their worst year in over a decade after not making it to the All-Ireland quarter finals. However, with the departure of manager Shane O’Neill and the retirement of arguably the greatest hurler of all-time in Joe Canning it will be a very different Galway we will see next year for better or worse.
It was a good year for the likes of Dublin who beat Galway in the Leinster championship and also Kilkenny who were a whisker away from the All-Ireland final. It was however, like most years’ a disappointing one for most of the counties. The departure of the likes of Liam Sheedy at Tipperary and Davy Fitzgerald at Wexford indicating a change for these counties after poor seasons. Although, Tipperary feel like a team that could turns things around quickly and be right in contention again.
The question on everyone’s mind for next year’s championship is who is there to beat this great Limerick team? The number one challenger has to be Galway, who did beat them in the league this year. While league and championship are different in effort and intensity levels the tribesmen have shown that it can be done if they get the right man in next year. Other than that, you have Waterford and Tipperary who did well against them in the league but neither of them gave them much of a game in the championship. Overall, it is hard to look past Limerick for next years’ championship, but from a Galway perspective you just have to hope that a new manager can breathe life into this team and challenge Limerick’s dominance next year.