2024 Munster Senior Hurling Championship Preview

The Allianz National Hurling League season has concluded. The warm weather training camps have concluded. It is time for the chief protagonists of the Munster SHC to put their best foot forward to advance from a provincial championship which looks set to throw twists and turns aplenty. Hawkeye Sidekick takes up the narrative.

What did we learn from the Allianz NHL campaign?

Apart from learning that Clare’s squad depth have strengthened in the back and middle third positions this season, the other counties in the Munster SHC departed the league with open questions to answer.

The drive for five starts this weekend in Ennis. Where are Limerick genuinely at? 1B fixtures were difficult to assess given the opposition apart from Tipperary and Galway. The Kilkenny loss certainly exposed defensive depth chart issues to address.

The side enter the championship contending with injury and suspension. Midfield lynchpin Darragh O’Donovan out for the first two games of the campaign. Peter Casey’s indiscipline against Kilkenny means the Na Piarsaigh man will be watching the Clare fixture on the side-line.

Limerick’s success is their middle third fluency and ability to orchestrate from the half back line. A strong line-up has been named by John Kiely. They will ask opposition to launch long so that their middle third can mop up and create the impressive run game from deep. Hannon at half-back orchestrating passing from deep. Byrnes laser distribution from placed balls and open play. Hayes marauding forward along with Cathal O’Neill.

Opposition will look to stifle Limerick in the middle third, committing players to this area of the pitch but that may allow Limerick to unleash the likes of Gillane, Flanagan to prosper. Seamus Flanagan in particular has a point to prove after limited league action. Limerick are to be shot at and a big test looms large with Clare. A result here and Limerick will be well set to secure at least an All Ireland series appearance.

There is so much to like about Clare hurling currently. The All Ireland minor success of last term. Clare’s minor and U20 sides have impressed early this term with wins over Limerick in both age grades. Clare’s senior squad can win games without Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell, David McInerney and Ryan Taylor.

The Allianz NHL league forced Brian Lohan and management to thrust prospects into action and they delivered. The defensive depth chart is bolstered with Hogan, Leen, Galvin in the ranks. Lohan in midfield has formed an effective partnership with the ever consistent Cathal Malone.

Clare management have rewarded the players who have impressed in the league. Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell must make do with a place on the bench but their services will be required starting Sunday ands during the provincial campaign. The management team cannot afford to drop selection clangers like they did in the provincial campaign last season, a repeat and Clare could be behind the eight ball. #

I like this Clare’s side setup. Their speed, run game will pose no end of issues for sides. If Clare defensively can continue their impressive form, then Clare are a genuine Munster and All Ireland contender. Limerick in the opening round is a big test. A result is required.

A team in transition but Liam Cahill and Michael Bevans have assembled a side full of potential and skill. O’Mara, Connolly, O’Connor, Bowe have complemented the likes of the McGrath brothers and Ronan Maher to deliver some standout performances in the league.

Tipperary have genuine attacking threats inside. Morris, Kehoe will torment opposition full back lines if given quick early ball. This will be the fundamental problem for Tipperary. How does the middle third secure enough quick ball to their full forward inside? Tynan, Stakelum in particular will need to lead from the front.

The bye week in the opening round allows Tipperary an opportunity to get more players back from injury. Cathal Barrett automatically comes to mind. Tipperary’s squad depth exposed late in the provincial campaign last term with a flat Waterford performance but meekly losing to Galway in the All Ireland quarter-final. Does Tipperary have the depth chart to contend and deliver consistent performances?

Cork have an embarrassment of player options. Their underage success in minor and U20 in recent years has seen some evolution in the senior side but the same names dominate the team sheet.

The playing style of Cork will create column inches. Do they look to build from the back? Do they look to create with quick distribution to Alan Connolly and Patrick Horgan? Is the game plan blurred? Waterford first day out will test those questions to the maximum.

Cork’s skill set and ability when given time and space is beyond reproach. This current side with Pat Ryan at the helm need to deliver from matchday one. Consistency is an issue for this Cork setup in recent years so a good start at Walsh Park on Sunday is stating the obvious, otherwise Cork could be a game away from an early exit from the championship. The debate on experience vs. youth will rage if that happens!

There must be a kick from this Waterford management, players and setup? The league campaign was a massive disappointment. The reopening of Walsh Park has not seen the side establish a fortress and with a home support who are passive to the style of play deployed, this Waterford side need to change minds quickly.

There is massive talent in this side despite the departure of Austin Gleeson. Prunty, De Burca, Bennett’s, Hutchinson, Fitzgerald to name but a few. This is the side who could and should have beaten Limerick first time out last season. Waterford showed when their game plan is executed well, they can cause problems. Just ask Tipperary on last term’s fixture.

Davy Fitzgerald has started the media mind games looking to create motivational key points for his side before this Cork side. No-one gives us a chance mantra has been a prevailing theme in his comments when the league results went south. Fitzgerald needs change the narrative and setup this side for success. Hutchinson and Kiely inside in the full forward line. Bennett asked to roam in the middle third and pick up space. De Burca sweeping and orchestrating. Lyons marauding forward at every given opportunity.

Waterford’s underage struggles are well documented again but this senior side genuinely have massive talent to upset the form guide. I expect Waterford to bring a performance against Cork and I would not be surprised if the Deise secured a much needed championship win in the provincial championship. Top three may be ambitious but there is an upset result or two in this side.


2. Limerick
3. Tipperary

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