Limerick still the team to beat as eight remain in title race

Paudie Ahern of Kerry in action in the Munster Cup quarter-final against Tipperary

The All-Ireland picture was cleared up over the weekend with the remaining title contenders confirmed.

Eight counties are left in the championship race as the provincial and Joe McDonagh competitions came to a thrilling conclusion.

Limerick and Kilkenny both claimed the provincial championships for the third year running (a fourth for Limerick) to book their place in the All-Ireland last four.

Losing finalists Clare and Galway await in the quarters with the preliminary quarter-finals to be played this weekend as Cork travel to Belfast while Galway are in Tralee.

Below each of the remaining contenders are ranked with the All-Ireland final just six weeks away.

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8. Kerry

Kerry’s main aim for the year would have been to win promotion from the Joe McDonagh cup but for the third successive year, the Kingdom were beaten in the decider, losing narrowly to Antrim last weekend in Croke Park.

Under Stephen Molumphy, there was further growth from the Kingdom this year as they now face Wexford in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals.

They will go into the game with nothing to lose but it looks a bridge too far.

7. Antrim

The Joe McDonagh Cup champions will return to the senior championship for 2023 after a solitary season in the second tier.

The Saffrons made hard work of the final, leading by as many as twelve points inside a half an hour, before the Kingdom drew within a single point at the final whistle.

Nonetheless, the Ulster side got the job done and like Kerry, they can look at Cork as a free his this Saturday in Belfast.

6. Wexford

Wexford did beat the eventual Leinster champions Kilkenny when needed most but it is fair to say that the Yellowbellies have flattered to deceive in the championship.

A strong run in the league has not been built on but Wexford are still in contention for the All-Ireland title.

They will certainly fancy their chances against Kerry with a clash with Clare guaranteed for the winners.

The Banner have knocked out Wexford in each of the past two championships and look a far stronger proposition this year.

It is hard to see Wexford past the quarter-finals but if they can perform to their highest level, they have a chance.

5. Cork

The hardest team to rank, Cork are an enigma and few other counties will be happy to see them at this stage.

Defeats to Limerick and Clare seemed to end their season prematurely but to their credit, the Rebels travelled to Walsh Park and got the job done before sealing their progression with an emphatic win over Tipperary.

Kyle Hayes evades Mark Coleman of Cork in the first round of the Munster championship.

This has allowed Cork time to reflect as they return to action against Antrim this weekend. The Saffrons are no gimme but Cork were All-Ireland finalists last year for a reason.

If they can build up a head of steam, they are a very dangerous outfit.

4. Galway

While the handshake debacle pulled much of the headlines from their Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny, Galway will be bitterly disappointed with the result.

The Cody-Shefflin debate papered over the cracks of what was a very poor performance from the Tribesmen.

Over half their scores came from placed balls with Conor Whelan the only forward who really stood up. All over the pitch, Galway were outfought as they failed to build off four successive wins coming into the game including a victory over Kilkenny.

It certainly feels like a missed opportunity for Galway with Cork looming.

3. Kilkenny

Adrian Mullen of Kilkenny

Three in a row in Leinster completed, it is still hard to gauge where this Kilkenny side are. Defeats were suffered against Galway and Wexford in the round robin but when needed most, the Cats produced for a 0-22 to 0-17 win over the Tribesmen last Saturday.

TJ Reid was back to his imperious best which will be most pleasing to Brian Cody who collected his 18th provincial title.

Still, Kilkenny look far from settled with constant changes to the side throughout the championship. This makes them a tricky opposition to prepare for but it has upset the team on occasions this year.

Having Padraig Walsh on the bench is a luxury but is it one that Kilkenny can afford?

They have avoided Limerick which would have been the main aim coming out of the game and they will fancy themselves against whoever comes through.

2. Clare

Ranking the Munster finalist ahead of the Leinster champions says more about the latter competition than the teams involved. The battle in Thurles on Sunday was miles removed from the Croke Park spectacle the previous evening.

Clare are deserving of their spot at second in the list following a game for the ages with Limerick. The Banner who had picked up consecutive draws with Limerick in the League and Championship this year, again showed their worth, bringing the All-Ireland champions to extra-time.

Ultimately they fell short but they now have time to recover from a gruelling contest against the best team in the country.

If Clare can follow up with a similar performance in the quarters then a date with Kilkenny awaits.

However, how much of a toil will Sunday take from a team that gave it everything but came up short.

Clare’s Tony Kelly and Limerick’s Seán Finn getting to know each other during the Munster Final


They had to dig as deep as they have since Kiely’s appointment in 2017, but Limerick demonstrated why they are the best team in the country with a battling, and victorious display against Clare in the Munster final.

Kiely’s injury deflated squad were pushed to the limit but still came up trumps to complete a four in a row all while booking their place in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Limerick have four weeks to prepare for that semi-final clash as they moved within two games of an All-Ireland three in a row.

And after getting through a tough Munster campaign, Limerick will be buoyed by the potential returns of the reigning Hurler of the Year Cian Lynch and All-Star Peter Casey who should be recovered in time for that game.

The desire in this team, despite all the success, doesn’t seem to have waned at all as they remain the team to beat.

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