Limerick still the team to beat but the chasing pack set out their stall | Power Rankings

Limerick and Kilkenny have booked automatic semi-final spots with their respective Munster and Leinster championship wins.

The eight teams to compete in the All-Ireland series has been confirmed following the conclusion of the provincial championships. Limerick and Kilkenny have booked automatic semi-final spots with their Munster and Leinster wins, while Clare and Galway will join Tipperary, Dublin, Carlow and Offaly as hopefuls to reach the semis.

Last year’s finalists are just 70 minutes from returning to the same stage again with both retaining their title, Limerick making it five in a row while it was a fourth on the trot for the Cats.

The preliminary quarter-finals this weekend will see the number of teams competing decrease to six with the teams remaining will halved by the time of the semi-finals in four weeks time.

Ahead of the round of eight this weekend, we examine the remaining contenders in the hunt for the Liam MacCarthy cup.

8. Offaly (1000/1)

Offaly lost the Joe McDonagh Cup final, and while they pose just as much of a threat as Carlow at causing an upset in the series, the odds are well and truly stacked against them.

The Faithful county are paired with Tipperary in a preliminary round, with the winner progressing to the quarter final stage. The Premier had a relatively good Munster championship, and would have been expecting to play in the Munster final last weekend.

Regardless, Tipperary should prove too strong a test for Offaly, who are likely to bow out at the earliest stage possible.

7. Carlow (1000/1)

Just above Offaly are Carlow, who qualified for the All-Ireland series having won the Joe McDonagh cup, defeating the Faithful county in the final by a single point.

All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final, Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow 7/7/2018 Carlow vs Limerick Limerick’s Aaron Gillane in action against Carlow’s Kevin McDonald Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

Carlow face Dublin in their preliminary round to qualify for the quarters, and it is a similar affair to the Offaly Tipperary encounter, with the Dubs being heavy favourites for this tie.

Most hurling fans in the country would be very shocked if Carlow were to progress any further than this game.

6. Dublin (66/1)

The Dubs have been paired with Carlow for their preliminary clash, and should have no problems in this one following a steady Leinster campaign.

Micheal Donoghue’s side finished third in the Leinster championship, picking up an impressive win over Wexford, as well as a draw with beaten finalists Galway.

While the Dubs should prove too strong for Carlow in the preliminary round, they are sure to face a tougher test in the quarter-final stage.

However, they will be wary of the Joe McDonagh champions having been shocked at the same stage by Laois in 2019.

5. Galway (10/1)

26 February 2023; Kyle Hayes of Limerick in action against Cianan Fahy of Galway during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Galway and Limerick at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Despite having their hearts broken in the final seconds of the Leinster final by Cillian Buckley, Henry Shefflin’s Galway have had a rather successful year so far, topping the table after the round robin stage before putting in a very good performance in the final. Shefflin’s side held a two point lead in the dying stages, only to be struck down by what was Buckley’s first ever goal for the Cats.

The Tribesmen now find themselves in a quarter-final, awaiting the winner of Tipperary and Offaly. Assuming the Premier progress, they would present a stern test for Shefflin’s men, and one they could well fail.

Tipperary had a strong Munster campaign that just fell away slightly at the last hurdle, and they will be hungry to show what they can do in the knockout stages.

It’s fine margins as the nature of the defeat means they will also have to come through Limerick if they are to get back to a first All-Ireland final since falling to the Shannonsiders in 2018.

4. Tipperary (8/1)

Tipperary face Offaly in a preliminary round, and they must be wondering how they ended up in this position. Going into the final round of the round robin, the Premier were in second spot, just needing to beat already eliminated Waterford to secure a Munster final date with Clare.

Even though they were guaranteed to prop up the table regardless of the result, the Deise stunned everyone, as they put together a fantastic performance to send Tipperary to the preliminary rounds.

Liam Cahill’s side will be licking their wounds ahead of the meeting with Offaly, safe in the knowledge they can compete with pretty much anyone left in the series.

The Premier have already recorded a win over Clare, as well as a draw with Munster champions Limerick this year but will face a potential banana skin in the form of Offaly, buoyed by their recent underage success.

Tipperary still should have far too much this weekend with Jackie Tyrrell branding them dark horse coming through the preliminary stages. A win over Offaly would ensure another meeting with Galway as the sides have played out some crackers in recent years.

3. Kilkenny (9/2)

27 July 2021; Adrian Mullen of Kilkenny during the GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Launch at Ballyhale Shamrocks GAA Club in Ballyhale, Kilkenny. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Unlucky not to break into the top two, Leinster champions Kilkenny come in at third, as the Cats wait in the semi-finals following their dramatic Leinster final win over Galway. Derek Lyng’s men finished second in the round robin section of Leinster, although they did draw with first place Galway, and most crucially beat them in the final.

Cillian Buckley’s timely intervention secured a four in a row in the province in a game that they should have seen out comfortably only for a Galway fightback. Yet, the nature of Limerick’s achievements down south have meant the Cats have gone under the radar in their quest to end a famine in the county.

Their last All-Ireland title came in 2015 and they have been beating in three finals since then, notably last year’s classic against Limerick. Crucially, the win in Leinster means they will avoid the four in a row chasing Shannonsiders until the final should they both come through their last four ties.

In his first year in charge, things could not have gone much better for Lyng thus far.

2. Clare (4/1)

Despite defeat at the weekend, the Banner are Limerick’s closest rival for Liam McCarthy this year. Having beat the Shannonsiders in April, Brian Lohan’s men came within just a point of the Treaty in the Munster final last weekend, just falling short at the final hurdle for the second successive.

How they respond this time around will tell a lot.

This is a Clare side that let themselves down in Croke Park last year, and should they get through their quarter final against either Dublin or Carlow as many expect, they will have a chance to right the wrongs of last year.

Clare haven’t won the Liam McCarthy cup for a decade, and if anyone is going to stop this Limerick machine, it seems as though it is destined to be their neighbours. Lohan’s men have been improving steadily as the championship went on, following a disappointing loss in the first round to Tipperary, the Banner went on to beat Limerick, Waterford and Cork, before controversially losing the Munster final by the slimmest of margins.

Clare have a lot to play for, and if things fall into place, they might just go all the way. Yet, the setback on Sunday and subsequent route back to the final could be a burden too hard to overcome.

11 June 2023; Cathal Malone of Clare gets to the ball ahead of William O’Donoghue of Limerick during the Munster GAA Hurling Championship Final match between Clare and Limerick at TUS Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

1. Limerick (8/11)

It will come as no surprise that Limerick come in at number one, and it is hard to remember a time when the Shannonsiders weren’t top of every hurling power rankings.

What’s almost more worrying for the chasing pack is that John Kiely’s side have found their rhythm, and are going to take some stopping on their return to Croke Park.

Their Munster campaign got off to a slow start, as they squeezed past Waterford. A loss to Clare was followed by a draw with Tipperary, but on the brink of championship elimination, the Cork contest would prove to be a turning point for their year. The defending Munster champions edged the Rebels by a single point in the sweltering heat, to set up a final rematch with Clare.

Kiely’s men showed up when the pressure was on, and they did enough to get over the line on the Ennis Road to spur on euphoric scenes as they made history by becoming the first team from the county to win five successive provincial titles.

With the win guaranteeing a four week break to the semi-finals, they can look ahead to creating more history as they bid to join Cork and Kilkenny as they only sides to win an All-Ireland four in a row.

Slow they were getting going in the championship, this Limerick machine is now well and truly up and running, and there may be no one who can grind them to a halt.

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