Tuesday 14 August 2018

2017 Hurling power rankings: Where does your county come on the list?

 

Galway's All-Ireland winning captain David Burke lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Galway's All-Ireland winning captain David Burke lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

For only the second time since the turn of the Millennium, a county outside the 'Big Three' - Kilkenny, Cork, Tipperary - commands the top spot, with Galway proudly flying the maroon-and-white flag on the peak after losing only one competitive game all season.

Clare in 2013 were the only other team to break the traditional monopoly since Offaly managed it in 1998. Here's my running order for 2017 . . .

1 GALWAY

Played 13, Won 12, Lost 1 (League and Championship)

Top of the class for the first time since 1988, the achievement is decorated with All-Ireland, Allianz League and Leinster ribbons, making it the most successful year in Galway's history (when they last completed the League and All-Ireland double in 1987, they were not in the Leinster Championship).

The turning point on this year's journey came in early April when they recovered from a 10-point deficit to beat Waterford in the league quarter-final.

Having failed to win promotion to 1A (Wexford beat them), another defeat would have hit their confidence levels going into the championship.

Instead they set sail as league champions before beating Dublin, Offaly, Wexford, Tipperary and Waterford to land the county's fifth All-Ireland title.

Unusually for All-Ireland winners, they did it despite scoring no goal in their last four games. However, their prodigious point-scoring (they averaged almost 28 in five championship games) proved too much for all opposition.

2 CORK

P10, W6, L4

The case for having them at No 2 ahead of Tipperary and Waterford is as follows:

1. They beat Tipp in League and Championship.

2. They won the Munster title, beating Tipp, Waterford and Clare.

3. There's a big doubt over whether Waterford would have beaten them in the All-Ireland semi-final if Damien Cahalane hadn't been sent off coming up to the three-quarter stage. They were going well at the time but lost their way after being left a man down.

3 TIPPERARY

P13, W8, D1, L4

This year yielded no titles but they are still second favourites behind Galway for next year's All-Ireland title. There are many who believe that if Tipperary had nudged past Galway, as they did last year, they would now be looking forward to a three-in-a-row attempt.

They have done well against Waterford in recent years which, when coupled with their All-Ireland-winning experience, would probably have seen them home in the final.

Still, fences are there to be jumped and Tipperary tripped up at three big ones (League final, Munster quarter-final and All-Ireland semi-final).

4 WATERFORD

P12, W7, L5

It might look harsh to have the All-Ireland runners-up at No 4 but Waterford lose out to Cork, who won the Munster title and to Tipperary, who came even closer to beating Galway than the Déise men. And when the pair clashed in the league, Tipperary were comfortable winners in Walsh Park.

That's not to take away from what was a good season for Waterford, who will benefit from having taken a step closer to landing the ultimate prize. Playing in a final is another box ticked and will be of use from an experience viewpoint if the chance arrives again.

5 WEXFORD

P11, W8, L3

The only team to beat Galway in League or Championship this year, this is their highest ranking for a long time. The facts support their lofty position at the end of Davy Fitzgerald's first season as manager.

Galway, Kilkenny and Limerick were among their victims in the league and they repeated the success over Kilkenny in the championship before losing to Galway and Waterford. Other than Galway, they lost fewer games than any other county in the top ten.

6 CLARE

P9, W4, L5

There's still no real sign of the so-called golden age yielding the riches that Banner supporters expected after the 2013 All-Ireland win. Davy Fitzgerald became the lightning rod carrying their frustrations to ground during the last two years of his managerial term but he can't be held responsible anymore.

Clare came mighty close to being relegated to 1B this year, surviving with a play-off win over Dublin and later won one of three championship games. Frankly, it's very difficult to know where they stand but this year's results suggest that sixth is about right.

They are rated ahead of Kilkenny on the basis that they reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals. Also, they beat the Cats by 13 points in the league.

7 KILKENNY

P9, W3, D1, L5

It has been a long time since Kilkenny had six ahead of them in the rankings but it's justified by this year's facts. They won only three (Cork, Dublin in the league, Limerick in the championship) of nine competitive games and failed to get into the last six in the All-Ireland race.

"Don't write off Kilkenny - we all know what they're like," said Tipperary manager Michael Ryan during the recent All-Stars trip to Singapore. He's right of course. Nobody is dismissing them for 2018 but based on 2017, they will be starting from the seventh row of the grid.

8 LIMERICK

P9, W4, L5

Limerick manager John Kiely was oozing frustration after the qualifier defeat by Kilkenny in Nowlan Park early July. "We had plans for next week but they're all gone now. The boys go back to their clubs and we won't see them for months on end," he said.

He is in the early stages of a big project and wanted more games to make as much progress as possible before signing off for the season.

How much Limerick advanced is difficult to gauge but with the U-21s adding another All-Ireland title to their haul and Na Piarsaigh winning the Munster title, optimism is high on Shannonside.

9 DUBLIN

P9, W2, L7

When they beat Cork by eight points in the second round of the league, it looked as if pre-season predictions of gloom might be misplaced. They weren't. Dublin's only other win in their remaining eight games was against Laois in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Otherwise it was setbacks all the way, with the biggest slump of all coming in their final game against Tipperary which they lost by 22 points.

Ger Cunningham had no option but to depart a scene which had grown toxic after several players made themselves unavailable for county duty. Obviously they felt justified, but it raises questions about their commitment to a county cause that is always bigger than the management team.

10 OFFALY

P9, W2, L7

Their seven losses were by an average of 15 points in a season which started with a 26-point defeat by Galway in 1B and ended with a 34-point trimming by Waterford in the All-Ireland qualifiers. Their only wins were over Kerry in the league and Westmeath in the Leinster Championship.

The grim stats underline the extent of the challenge facing Kevin Martin, who will become Offaly's fourth manager in four seasons next year. The odds are that Offaly will be relegated from the Leinster Championship for 2018, which would be a dreadful setback for a county that won four All-Ireland and nine provincial titles between 1980 and 1995.

11 LAOIS

P11, W5, L6

Squeezed out of the Leinster Championship under the new 'round robin' format, they will compete in the Joe McDonagh Cup next year along with Carlow, Kerry, Meath, Westmeath and Antrim. They survived in 1B by beating Kerry in a play-off.

12 KERRY

P9, W2, L7

Relegated from 1B after a play-off with Laois, they won one of three 'round robin' games in the Leinster Championship and are heading for the Joe McDonagh Cup tier next year.

13 ANTRIM

P10, W6, D2, L2

Their big battles this year were with Carlow, whom they played four times - twice each in the league and Christy Ring Cup.

Their only defeat in those games came in the Ring Cup final which Carlow won by 11 points. However, they had earlier beaten Carlow in the 2A final, a result of greater significance than the Ring Cup as it lifted Antrim into 1B where they will begin their campaign with a trip to Pearse Stadium to play Galway on January 28.

14 CARLOW

P11, W7, D2, L2

The Christy Ring Cup champions had earlier lost a 2A promotion final to Antrim, leaving them in the lower grouping next season.

The 2A final was the bigger prize as it took Antrim to a level where they will compete with Galway, Limerick, Dublin, Offaly and Laois in next year's league.

15 KILDARE

P8, W4, D1, L3

Third in 2A, they lost to Carlow in the Christy Ring Cup semi-final.

16 WESTMEATH

P10, W4, L6

Finished a disappointing fourth in 2A before running Offaly to four points in the Leinster quarter-final. They did well enough against Tipperary in the qualifiers on a day when their full-back Tommy Doyle gave one of the performances of the season.

17 MEATH

P9, W7, L2

The Division 2B winners lost two and won one of three 'round robin' games in Leinster just missing out on a quarter-final place.

18 WICKLOW

P9, W6, L3

Lost the 2B final to Meath but did well to beat London and Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup before losing the semi-final to Carlow.

19 DOWN

P9, W5, L4

Finished third in 2B before twice losing to Antrim in the Christy Ring Cup.

20 LONDON

P8, W1, D1, L6

Just escaped relegation from Division 2A, they lost two of three Christy Ring Cup games.

21 DERRY

P9, W5, L4

They finished fourth of six in 2B but improved considerably in the Nickey Rackard Cup, beating Louth, Longford, Monaghan and Armagh to take the title.

22 ARMAGH

P10, W3, D1, L6

Relegated from 2A, they later reached the Nickey Rackard Cup final, losing to Derry. It completed an unfortunate treble for Armagh, who also lost the 2016 and 2015 finals.

23 MAYO

P9, W3, L6

They escaped relegation from 2B by beating Roscommon in a play-off and later repeated the success over their neighbours in a Christy Ring relegation play-off.

24 ROSCOMMON

P9, L9

Lost all nine games but they were at a higher level (Div 2B and Christy Ring) than those below them who, in some cases, won several games.

25 DONEGAL

P10, W6, L4

Tyrone won two of their three clashes with Donegal but Donegal won the most important contest in the 3A final, which earned them promotion to 2B for next season.

26 TYRONE

P10,W6, L4

Did well in 3A until the final, where they lost heavily to Donegal

27 MONAGHAN

P9, W5, L4

Missed out on a place in 3A final on scoring difference and were beaten by Derry in the Nickey Rackard Cup.

28 LONGFORD

P7, W 4, L3

Won the 3B title before suffering two heavy defeats in the Nickey Rackard Cup

29 WARWICKSHIRE

P11, W9, L 2

A good year. Runners-up to Longford in 3B before winning the Lory Meagher Cup.

30 LOUTH

P8, L8

A year to forget, having lost all eight league and Nickey Rackard Cup games

31 SLIGO

P9, W5, L4

Third in both the 3B (five teams) and Lory Meagher Cup (six teams).

32 LEITRIM

P9, W4, L5

Reached Lory Meagher Cup final where they lost to Warwickshire.

33 FERMANAGH

P9, W2, L7

Finished bottom of both the 3B and Lory Meagher Cup tables. A bleak season.

34 CAVAN

P5, W1, L4

They did not compete in the League and won one game (v Fermanagh) in the Meagher Cup.

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