Hurling Rankings: Limerick hurlers lead the way

Niall Gartland looks across the hurling landscape and ranks the counties on their 2022 exploits…

1. Limerick

NO surprises here then. Limerick, who at times give off the vibe of being practically unbeatable, completed the three in-a-row this year. Mercifully, their semi-final and final wins over Galway and Kilkenny were by no means hammering jobs, but it still seems like Limerick and the rest when it comes to ranking the teams. Their latest Liam McCarthy Cup triumph was all the more impressive when you consider Cian Lynch sustained a hamstring injury during their Munster campaign which ruled him out of the remainder of the championship. Already, it bears considering that they have every chance of becoming the first hurling team in history to win the five in-a-row.

League: Fourth in Division 1A

Championship: All-Ireland champions

2 Kilkenny

THIS comes with a caveat – the Brian Cody era has officially come to an end following the great man’s decision to retire in the wake of their All-Ireland final defeat to Limerick. They gave it one almighty rattle on the day, losing out by 1-31 to 2-26 in an All-Ireland decider of rare quality. It was quite the campaign from the Cats; while still a hugely respected side, the feeling was that they didn’t have the quality of old, but they claimed some big results en route to the final, overcoming Galway in the Leinster final and thrashing a touted Clare side in the All-Ireland semi-final. TJ Reid remains one of the hurlers of his generation and they didn’t waste any time in appointing a new manager when Cody stepped down, so they shouldn’t be far away again in 2023.

League: Division One semi-finalists

Championship: Beaten All-Ireland finalists

3 Galway

GALWAY have been there or thereabouts in recent years, and showed there’s life after Joe Canning with a stellar 2022 season. There were those Henry Shefflin-Brian Cody handshakes that bizarrely threatened to overshadow everything else, but on the field of play they were hugely impressive. Their season climaxed in a narrow defeat to Limerick (their second three-point semi-final defeat in three years), a game where they came undone in the clutch moments on the final stretch. The question is whether Shefflin can wring any more out of the side in the upcoming years.

League: Third in Division 1A

Championship: Beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists

4 Cork

CORK didn’t have any silverware to show for their efforts, but it was still a solid campaign from the Rebels. They had some impressive outings in Munster, including wins over Waterford and Tipperary, before falling one-point short in the race for the All-Ireland against Galway. They arguably should have won that game, but were left to rue 12 first-half wides. Consistency has been a problem – some days they’re poor (they were hammered by Waterford in the league final), others imperious – and they have a fair amount of catching up to do if they’re to end their wait for an All-Ireland.

League: Beaten Division One finalists

Championship: Beaten All-Ireland quarter-finalists

5 Clare

WE’RE giving the Banner the benefit of the doubt as they were pitiful in their All-Ireland semi-final loss to Kilkenny, a day where their route one tactic was meat and drink to the Kilkenny defence, and attacking stars like Shane O’Donnell and Tony Kelly failed to fire. Otherwise it was a commendable campaign – they lost by three points to Limerick on Munster final day and claimed a good win over Wexford in the All-Ireland quarters. But still, that chastening defeat to Kilkenny looms large of the rest of their season.

League: Fifth in Division 1A

Championship: Beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists

6 Wexford

THE Wexford hurlers were arguably the best of the chasing pack this year. A four-point defeat to Clare marked the end of their season, but they were excellent in the league, winning all five of their group stage matches. They had some iffy results in Leinster, but on the flipside drew against Galway and claimed a win against Kilkenny (albeit Kilkenny had already qualified for the final).

League: Beaten Division One semi-finalists

Championship: Beaten All-Ireland quarter-finalists

7 Waterford

A SEASON that ultimately fizzled out. Waterford failed to make any real impact in the Munster Championship group stages (they avoided the wooden spoon with victory over Tipperary), a very disappointing outcome given they won the Division One title in style (they overcame Cork by 4-20 to 1-23 with Stephen Bennett racking up 2-11). They’ve enjoyed plenty of underage success, and they’ve recently appointed Davy Fitzgerald to the senior role, so they have the potential to have a strong season in 2023.

League: Division One champions

Championship: Fifth in Munster Championship group stage

8 Tipperary

A concerning season. They had a decent run in the league, winning the games you’d expect Tipperary to win, but they were desperate in the Munster Championship, failing to win any of their five games. Some of their best players have retired in recent years, so they’re facing into a period of transition.

League: Fourth in Division 1B

Championship: Sixth in Munster Championship group stage

9 Dublin

A HUGE amount of effort has been put into Dublin hurling in the last decade, but they still struggle against the big boys. There were actually unfounded rumours that a certain Con O’Callaghan was going to throw his lot into the Dublin hurlers this year, but they ploughed on without him and did reasonably well in both the league and Leinster. Still though, they haven’t really crashed through the glass ceiling when it comes to the crunch.

League: Third in Division 1B

Championship: Fourth in Leinster Championship group stage

10 Antrim

THE Saffrons had a successful campaign in the Joe McDonagh Cup, winning seven places on the team of the year after winning the title with victory over Kerry. They’ve been promoted to next year’s Liam McCarthy competition as a result of their success, and their manager Darren Gleeson has also committed for another year. They didn’t fare particularly well in the league, but victory over Offaly in a play-off meant they’ll still be in Division One next season.

League: Sixth in Division 1B

Championship: Joe McDonagh champions

11 Westmeath

WESTMEATH won the Division 2A final with style with a convincing win over Down, and they’ll be delighted that they stayed afloat in Leinster with a crucial win over Laois on the last day. They played crisp hurling on their way to a 5-24 to 1-18 victory and have made commendable progress in recent seasons.

League: Division 2A champions

Championship: Fifth in Leinster Championship group stage

12 Laois

LAOIS suffered an unsatisfactory end to the season, finishing dead last in the Leinster Championship, meaning they’ll play in the second-tier Joe McDonagh Cup next season. They suffered some big defeats to Kikenny, Wexford and others, so a year or two at a lower level mightn’t do them any harm.

League: Fifth in Division 1B

Championship: Sixth in Leinster Championship group stage (relegated)

13 Kerry

KERRY were defeated by Antrim in the Joe McDonagh Cup final, but there was controversy surrounding the fact that even if they’d won, they’d have faced a promotionrelegation play-off clash against Tipperary to make the step up to the top tier. They had an indifferent league, but their Joe McDonagh campaign was impressive apart from their one-point loss in an incredible final against Antrim.

League: Third in Division 2A

Championship: Beaten Joe McDonagh finalists

14 Offaly

OFFALY have fallen down the pecking order since the glory days of the nineties, and it was a fairly average campaign in every respect for the former Leinster giants. They were deservedly relegated from Division One with defeat to Antrim, and while they pulled themselves together for the championship, missed out on a place in the Joe McDonagh final.

League: Sixth in Division 1A (relegated)

Championship: Fourth in Joe McDonagh Cup group stages

15 Down

DOWN have made steady strides under their manager Ronan Sheehan and while that was the case in 2022, they’ll be disappointed that they didn’t make a better fist of things in their Division 2A final defeat to Westmeath. They did fairly well in their second year in the Joe McDonagh competition, claiming two important wins.

League: Division 2A finalists

Championship: Fifth in Joe McDonagh group stages

16 Carlow

CARLOW had a reasonable season, finishing mid-table in Division 2A and narrowly missing out on a place in the Joe McDonagh final. They claimed what was deemed a surprising victory over Offaly in the championship (maybe not that surprising when you consider Offaly’s slide), and they also had a win over Down. If they continue their upwards trajectory, a Joe McDonagh title mightn’t be beyond them.

League: Fourth in Division 2A

Championship: Third in Joe McDonagh group stages

17 Kildare

THE highlight of Kildare’s 2022 was obvious – victory over Mayo in the Christy Ring final. They’ve plenty of pedigree in that competition at this stage, given they’ve won four times in the last decade, so the question is whether they can push on at Joe McDonagh level. It’s a big ask.

League: Fifth in Division 2A

Championship: Christy Ring Champions

18 Derry

THE Oakleafers narrowly missed out on a place in the Christy Ring final (they were bidding to make amends for last year’s defeat in the final), but there was a happier outcome in the league where they won the Division 2B final, achieving promotion to 2A where they’ll join Antrim and Down. Players like Cormac O’Doherty should hopefully benefit from the split season going forward as well.

League: Division 2B champions

Championship: Third in Christy Ring Cup group stages

19 Mayo

MAYO had an atrocious league campaign, suffering relegation to Division 3A with defeat to Wicklow. They sorted themselves out in the championship, faring extremely well in their first season back in the Christy Ring Cup, reaching the final where they lost to Kildare. Ultimately, we’ll go with championship as a barometer of where they truly stand.

League: Sixth in Division 2B (relegated)

Championship: Beaten Christy Ring Cup finalists

20 Tyrone

TYRONE had a wonderful season in one sense, winning the Division 3A title and Nickey Rackard Cup, making amends for last year’s Croke Park defeat to Mayo. However, tragedy struck in June when the county’s most celebrated-hurler, Damian Casey, died in Spain. He scored 14 points in their Nickey Rackard final triumph against Roscommon, and his absence will be sorely felt for years to come. They still have a strong line-up and a great manager (Michael McShane) so they’ll be hopeful of making a mark in Christy Ring level next year.

League: Division 3A champions

Championship: Nickey Rackard champions

21 Meath

THE Royals will be disappointed with their seasont. They will play Division 2B hurling next year after suffering relegation, and things didn’t pick up for the championship, finishing last in the Joe McDonagh Cup. The team is going through a period of transition and they may have more joy at Christy Ring level next year.

League: Sixth in Division 2A (relegated)

Championship: Sixth in Joe McDonagh Cup (relegated)

22 Sligo

THE Yeatsmen had a commendable season, the obvious highlight being their run to the Division 2B final, where they up a decent showing but lost by only five points to a strong Derry side. Their Christy Ring campaign was a bit more forgettable, narrowly escaping relegation to the Nickey Rackard ranks.

League: Division 2B finalists

Championship: Fifth in Christy Ring Cup group stages

23 Roscommon

ROSCOMMON made it all the way to the Nickey Rackard final, but they were a distinct second best on the day against a Tyrone side firing on all cylinders. They made it to the Division 3A last four but were undone by the Orchard County.

League: Division 3A semi-finalists

Championship: Nickey Rackard Cup finalists

24 London

THE Exiles had a steady if unspectacular 2022, finishing mid-table in Division 3B and having a similar fate in the Christy Ring Cup. They have slipped a bit in recent years (they won the Christy Ring Cup in 2012 and played for two years in the top tier) but it’s a good reflection of the strength of London hurling that they still play at a pretty decent level.

League: Fourth in Division 2B

Championship: Fourth in Christy Ring Cup group stages

25 Donegal

DONEGAL have achieved a nice degree of continuity on the management front with Mickey McCann leading the team. However, a few experienced players like Sean McVeigh have retired and they did pretty well this year in the circumstances. They lost by a point to Sligo in the Division 2B semi-final and narrowly missed out in a place in the Nickey Rackard final.

League: Division 2B semi-finalists

Championship: Third in Nickey Rackard Group stages

26 Wicklow

WICKLOW achieved a hugely important result back in March when they edged a relegation play-off encounter against Mayo. However, things didn’t pan out so favourably in the Christy Ring, losing every match and falling through the relegation trapdoor as a result.

League: Fifth in Division 2B group stages

Championship: Sixth in Christy Ring Cup group stages (relegated)

27 Armagh

IT was a slightly messy campaign in Armagh as they underwent a change of management mid-season with Antrim legend ‘Sambo’ McNaughton taking the reins. Some of their stalwarts are still available and playing great stuff, and they managed to reach the Division 3A final, where they gave Tyrone a super match and lost by two points.

League: Division 3A semi-finalists

Championship: Fourth in Nickey Rackard group stages

28 Fermanagh

LAST year’s Lory Meagher champions Fermanagh will be happy that they managed to stay up in the Nickey Rackard tournament, finishing just above Lancashire. They also had a super league campaign, winning the Division 3B title.

League: Division 3B champions

Championship: Fifth in Nickey Rackard group stages

29 Louth

LOUTH will be delighted with their season. Not only did they manage to stay up in Division 3A, but they won the Lory Meagher competition with victory over Longford and will play in the third-tier Nickey Rackard competition next year.

League: Fifth in Division 3B

Championship: Lory Meagher champions

30 Longford

30th in the country doesn’t sound like anything worth shouting about, but Longford will be content with how 2022 went for them, losing the Lory Meagher final to Louth after topping the round robin. They also did pretty well in the league, losing a Division 3B semi-final to Leitrim.

League: Division 3A semi-finalists

Championship: Lory Meagher finalists

31 Monaghan

THE Farney County will be disappointed that they’re currently playing at Lory Meagher level and they failed to rectify that fact this year, finishing mid-table. They’d a decent league campaign but things went haywire in the championship as they were deducted points for fielding an ineligible player in two games they had won.

League: Fourth in Division 3A

Championship: Fourth in Lory Meagher group stages

32 Leitrim

THE Connacht side had a decent enough season all things considered, doing well in a Division 3B semi-final against Longford and holding their own in the Lory Meagher – something to work with looking forward.

League: Division 3B semi-finalists

Championship: Third in Lory Meagher group stages

33 Warwickshire

LIAM Watson played a key role when Warwickshire won their second Lory Meagher back in 2017, but they’re not quite as strong these days. They finished dead last in Division 3A and were relegated as a result, and they suffered the same fate in the Nickey Rackard.

League: Sixth in Division 3A (relegated)

Championship: Sixth in Nickey Rackard group stages (relegated)

34 Lancashire

NOTHING really worth mentioning here as they only one two games all season, both of which were against Cavan. When you delve into the results, they did produce some good performances in defeat, including narrow losses to the likes of Longford and Monaghan.

League: Fourth in Division 3B

Championship: Fifth in Lory Meagher group stages

35 Cavan

THE Breffni County will hope to bounce back after a forgettable campaign, finishing bottom of Division 3B and failing to win a game in the Lory Meagher competition. They have the potential to do better going by recent seasons.

League: Fifth in Division 3B

Championship: Sixth in Lory Meagher group stages

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