Opinion: National Hurling League Power Rankings

The threat of the Coronavirus has meant there will be no GAA action until the end of the month at the very earliest.

As such, the future of the League and the Championship have been called into question with the nature of the virus meaning situations are being assessed on a daily basis.

Regardless, after the weather caused havoc with the fixtures thus far, each Division 1 Senior Hurling team has played five games with the group stages coming to a finish last weekend.

As such, I rank each of the teams thus far as they prepare for the knockout stages of the league, the championship or 2020…


12. Carlow

All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final, Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow 7/7/2018 Carlow vs Limerick Limerick’s Tom Morrissey in action against Carlow’s Jack Kavanagh Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

It has been an awful league campaign for the Carlow hurlers who suffered relegation after losing to Westmeath in the relegation final last weekend.

Carlow loss means they will now hurl in Division 2A next spring.

After relegation from the Leinster championship last summer, it has been a rough year for Carlow.


11. Westmeath

Allianz Hurling League Division 1A, LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, Co. Limerick 1/3/2020 Limerick vs Westmeath Westmeath’s Shane Clavin Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Keith Wiseman

It has not been a good league campaign for Westmeath but retaining their Division 1 status will have been the priority and that has been secured.

Their 1-17 to 2-8 win over Carlow was their only win of the campaign but a most crucial one and they can now prepare for another assault on the Christy Ring Cup safe in the knowledge that they will be playing in the top tier of the League next year.


10. Laois

Laois will not be happy with their league after delivering a solitary win, which came against relegated Carlow.

However, Eddie Brennan’s men will have always looked at the league as preparation for the Leinster championship after their Christy Ring success last summer.

Although there were encouraging performances, they will have to improve immensely if they are to have any joy in Leinster.


9. Dublin

Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi-Final, Nowlan Park, Co. Kilkenny 24/3/2019 Dublin vs Limerick Dublin’s Eoghan O’Connell with Graeme Mulcahy of Limerick Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

A second league campaign under Mattie Kenny did not go to plan for the capital side. Their sole victories came against Carlow and Laois which is hardly inspiring.

While they could count themselves unlucky not to have escaped with a result against Wexford in Croke Park, the manner of their defeats to Clare and Kilkenny will make for worrying times for Kenny and Co.

Dublin have the players to challenge in Leinster as they demonstrated in 2019, but 2020 has given little encouragement.


Allianz Hurling League Division 1A, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork, Co. Cork 23/2/2020 Cork vs Limerick Limerick’s Kyle Hayes and Cork’s Tim O’Mahony Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

8. Cork

A League that promised much with the return of Kieran Kingston ended with a wimper and just two wins.

While one of those was against the reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary, the Premier county’s early season form was dreadful.

Their other win came against a Westmeath side who lost all five group games and came after a close encounter.

It’s arguable that they gave table toppers Limerick their hardest game but defeats to Waterford and Galway left much to ponder.

They are a different animal come championship and will still be favoured to have a say in the race for Liam MacCarthy.


7. Tipperary

Allianz Hurling League Division 1A, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary 25/1/2020 Tipperary vs Limerick Limerick’s Tom Morrissey and Willie Connors of Tipperary Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Their position is very interchangeable with Cork as their All-Ireland form completely deserted them.

They started like a train in Semple Stadium and held a ten-point lead over Limerick early in the second half. However, a complete collapse allowed the Treaty in for a two-point lead and Tipp’s season didn’t get a whole lot better.

They accounted for Westmeath and overcame a Waterford side that were on a three game winning streak under Tipp man Liam Cahill.

Another collapse would signal the end of their league campaign as they allowed a seven-point lead against Galway at the half result in an eight-point loss in Salthill.

Are they the seventh best team in Ireland? No. But their league form has left a lot be desired.


6.Waterford

7 March 2020; Cian Lynch of Limerick is tackled by Shane McNulty of Waterford during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A Round 3 match between Limerick and Waterford at LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The league started so well for Liam Cahill in his first campaign as Déise Manager. However, back-to-back losses have changed the narrative dramatically.

Waterford were flying in their opening three games, accounting for Cork, Westmeath and Galway to set up a top-of-the-table clash with Limerick in round 4.

However, the weather saw the postponement of the game and was followed by a defeat to Tipperary a week later.

By the time they faced John Kiely’s side a week later, the wind seemed to be gone from their sails as the home side cruised to victory in the LIT Gaelic Grounds.

The manner of that loss will have perked Cahill’s attention as they prepare for a Munster championship with their last win in the competition coming in 2017.

Should the league be finished, Waterford will have a chance to return to form with a quarter-final clash with Kilkenny awaiting.


5. Galway

Allianz Hurling League, LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick 2/2/2020 Limerick vs Galway Limerick’s William O’Donoghue and Adrian Touhy of Galway Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

It was a mixed bag for Shane O’Neill’s Galway who have had some good results and some bad ones. Once again they have had to plough on without talisman Joe Canning but have fared much better than their ill-fated 2019 Championship.

They had impressive wins over Tipperary and Cork, as well as their win over Westmeath in round one, meaning they have qualified for a quarter-final date with Wexford.

However, like Waterford, their loss to Limerick, and performance in the LIT Gaelic Grounds will be of huge concern heading into the knockout stages and the championship.


4. Kilkenny

Brian Cody’s men are a very formidable side and have shown this once again in 2020. Talks of Kilkenny being written off every year are starting to wane as Cody has successfully integrated a new pack over the past couple of years.

GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 27/7/2019 Limerick vs Kilkenny Kilkenny’s TJ Reid with Barry Nash of Limerick Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Their three wins in the league may have come against Dublin, Carlow and Laois, but the 12-point hammering of Dublin with just 14-men.

Furthermore they have had to play without the sizeable Ballyhale Shamrocks contingent who retained their AIB Club All-Ireland title in recent weeks.

The loss of Young Hurler of the Year Adrian Mullen to an ACL injury will dent their hopes but they will be there or thereabouts once again this year.


3. Wexford

Allianz Hurling League Division 1A, Innovate Wexford Park, Co. Wexford 27/1/2019 Wexford vs Limerick Limerick’s Peter Casey shoots under pressure from Liam Ryan of Wexford Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

Davy Fitz has his Wexford exactly where he wants them to be.

After capturing the Leinster crown for the first time in fifteen years last summer, Fitz’ team have motored well this spring and set up a date with Wexford in the quarter-finals with four victories and a loss against Clare.

They continued their winning streak over Kilkenny and that will bode well when they attempt to retain their Leinster crown.

Wexford are yet to face Limerick in the championship since John Kiely’s appointment and you can be sure that Davy Fitzgerald would relish that challenge.


2. Clare

Job done for Brian Lohan as he native side finished top of Group 2 in his first league campaign in charge.

Clare were one of two teams to go undefeated in the League and had four wins to go with their draw against Kilkenny.

Tony Kelly has stepped up in a huge way since Peter Duggan’s departure and has been ably assisted by Shane O’Donnell who has also returned to form.

Munster Senior Hurling Championship Round 4, LIT Gaelic Grounds, Co. Limerick 9/6/2019 Limerick vs Clare Limerick’s Peter Casey and Kyle Hayes with Colm Galvin of Clare Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

After such a lacklustre 2019, Clare will be confident heading into the knockout stages as they await one of the quarter finalists in the last four.


1.Limerick

John Kiely’s side have been utterly brilliant thus far in the league with a perfect five from five record in the league, the only side to maintain that record.

A terrible first half in Thurles and a sloppy performance against Westmeath in round 5 aside, Limerick have been flawless in the Spring.

25 January 2020; Aaron Gillane of Limerick celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A Round 1 match between Tipperary and Limerick at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Kiely has successfully integrated a number of new faces into the side while seeing his stalwarts continue to impress.

The impact of Richie English’s ACL injury could have a huge bearing on the season, given the Doon man’s importance to the side.

But for now, Limerick are the team to beat once again.

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