THE group phase of the league came to an end over the weekend.
With each team having played five games, four remain in the hunt for League honours as Cork, Wexford, Kilkenny and Waterford face semi-final ties.
Conversely, Offaly and Antrim must meet in a relegation decider.
The other six will shift their attention to the All-Ireland Championship, starting with the provincial championships which quickly approaches on the weekend of April 16/17.
For some, the League proved a memorable one, while for others it will be seen as a disappointment.
Below we take a look at the standings of each side ahead of next month’s championship kick off.
12. Offaly (All-Ireland final odds N/A)
It was never going to be an easy transition of Offaly who were crowned Division 2 winners last year. But Michael Fennelly’s side were well exposed at this level with a -83 points difference after five games making for tough reading.
Did put it up to Wexford but outside of that, never seemed like troubling anyone. Will be desperate for a win over Antrim to prolong their stay in the top tier of the League.
11. Antrim (N/A)
In the relegation final with five successive losses, Antrim seem to have regressed since 2021 where they had wins over Laois and Clare to go with a draw vs Wexford.
Have a chance to rectify their season with a clash against Offaly but will then face into the Joe McDonagh Cup regardless of the outcome.
10. Laois (1000/1)
Secured Division 1 status and that will have been the main aim for Laois this year. Didn’t make it easy for themselves but in a relegation battle with Antrim, they were able to get the job done, even with just 14-men on the field.
Rank outsiders come the summer time, but they will not fear anyone and with Dublin in the first round, they will know they are capable of taking a scalp as they did in 2019.
9. Tipperary (16/1)
A mixed bag for Colm Bonnar’s side who were the only team to defeat Kilkenny but also lost their other games to real All-Ireland contenders. Scraped past Laois but were beaten by Dublin before they were overpowered by Waterford.
They kept their best for last with a 7-29 to 1-17 win over Antrim as their attacking unit hit their groove. What’s most disheartening for the county is the loss of Bryan O’Mara and Ciaran Connolly who are due to travel after showing just how valuable they could be for UL in the Fitzgibbon Cup.
In Jason Forde they have a premier forward while Ronan Maher would make any team. But the losses of Brendan and Padraic Maher have Tipp way down the pecking order.
8. Clare (28/1)
The Banner are a completely different team when they have Tony Kelly. The Ballyea man is an exceptional hurler and could single handily turn a game with his ability. After a lengthy absence to recover from ankle surgery, Kelly hit 3-32 in just three outings, showing little signs of ring rust.
With the return of Peter Duggan and the rise of Shane Taylor and Mark Rodgers, there would have been great hope for Clare but the injury to Rodgers is a massive blow.
Clare seem way outside the reckoning, but that will suit Lohan and co who will be seeking to cause an upset in Munster with a bye in the first round.
Ahead of Tipp n the rankings by virtue of playing in the harder group.
7. Dublin (28/1)
A very positive league campaign for the capital side saw them miss out on the knockout stages due to points differential. Their day one draw with Waterford saw them miss out with the Deise having a superior points difference.
The Spring competition still yielded wins over Tipperary, Antrim and Laois with the latter awaiting in the first round of Leinster.
Last year’s provincial finalists were brilliant in capturing the Walsh Cup and backed that up over the last eight weeks and will be genuine contenders this year.
6. Galway (6/1)
Henry Shefflin’s side seemed to be motoring well in their opening pair of clashes as they saw off Offaly with ease before beating the All-Ireland champions in their back garden. However, they were beaten by Wexford in Salthill in round three before losing to Cork which ended their knockout hopes.
Still, they were impressive against Limerick and Clare as Shefflin has unearthed a number of quality players while introducing his style of hurling on the team.
Their progression out of Leinster is far from assured but they will have ample time for recovery before they face Wexford in the opening game of the championship next month.
5. Waterford (13/2)
Liam Cahill’s men are in a league semi-final but have flattered to deceive so far. In their two big tests against Dublin and Kilkenny, they failed to pick up a win, drawing with the Dubs and losing their last round tie with the Cats, although a place in the semi-finals was almost guaranteed beforehand.
Still, Cahill will be pleased with their five outings as he has had the chance to blood a number of players. Waterford have real championship depth and managed to finish second in their group despite being without the services of their All-Ireland Champions contingent from Balllygunner for the majority.
Their dismantling of Munster championship opponents Tipperary will have been pleasing but they will be keen to leave a mark in the league knockout stages as they face Tipp in round one of the province next month.
4. Wexford (25/1)
Five from five in the League, topping a group that contains the All-Ireland pairing from 2021 and Henry Shefflin’s Galway, Wexford may feel aggrieved to be this low. Against Limerick in the opener, the Shannonsiders failed to get going at all while their match with Cork was a phoney war with both already through.
Nonetheless, it has been a hugely positive Spring so far for Darragh Egan and in Rory O’Connor he has one of the best players in the country at his disposal with Lee Chin yet to return.
Their recent record in the championship is the concern but should they continue in this vein through the league knockout stages, they may leapfrog the rest prior to their clash with Galway on April 17.
3. Kilkenny (10/1)
Into his 24th year in charge, Brian Cody has the Cats purring once more. In a must win game against early pace setters Waterford, Kilkenny were able to keep the visitors at arms length as their pendant for finding goals at the right times continues.
Padraig Walsh has been given a new lease of life at centre forward and the Tulloroan man clipped over five at the weekend. He will certainly need watching in the summer with the same to be said for Eoin Cody, Billy Ryan, Walter Walsh, Adrian Mullen and more as the Cats look to have real firepower to go with defensive steel.
They also start their championship campaign with clashes against Westmeath and Laois which will afford them the time to analyse their Leinster opponents.
2. Cork (13/2)
Second in their group after falling to Wexford at the weekend, it was a dead rubber of a game as the Rebels only started five from last year’s All-Ireland final. Kieran Kingston’s men have built on the success of 2021 and have successfully embedded a number of new faces into the set up.
The likes of Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Shane Kingston who are now in their mid-twenties have become real leaders in this side while Conor Lehane’s return has breathed new life into the forward unit.
Beat Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds to banish much of the demons from last August and will be focused on the Championship meeting with the same team despite having a League semi-final to contend with.
However, without silverware since 2005, the League will have added importance for the Rebels.
Way below their best in the League but this Limerick side has so much money in the bank after their recent seasons to maintain top spot in any rankings.
Three time All-Ireland winners since 2018, John Kiely’s men have been unbeatable come championship in the past two seasons..
Having failed to win any of their games against fellow All-Ireland contenders in the league is a slight worry but it seems foolish to write off the side ahead of that April 17 cash with Cork.
Still All-Ireland favourites but not as comprehensively as the Shannonsiders would have hoped.
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