National Hurling League champions Dublin fell at the first hurdle on Sunday when they suffered a seven point defeat away to Galway in their opening Division 1A game.
The young Galway side were well worth their 0-20 to 0-13 win after a performance that pleased new manager Anthony Cunningham.
Cunningham said, “The pitch was a small bit heavy. It was a typical early league match where touch might have been a bit off in certain quarters. But it was a good battle and when you get to play Dublin they always bring a battle to it.
“The thing that pleased us is that we battled and fought hard and that is the way hurling has gone.
“We’re very happy with the new players who’d effectively be Declan Connolly, Niall Donoghue, Niall Burke and Conor Cooney who were making their debut, and a lot of other players who are gone 21 or coming 22 who have a lot of experience under their belt now like Davy Burke and James Regan.
“It was a great team effort but nobody is getting carried away. We have huge development to do with this team. But we do have good material to work with and the boys are very willing.”
Niall Burke scored 10 points for Galway, much to the delight of manager Cunningham.
“He has been going very well for NUIG and with us as well. He is a great prospect but to get to the very top will take time and effort,” Cunningham said.
“We have the raw material. That would be the clear message from here. But we need time to get to the top of our game. We have the players, but we won’t be getting carried away with this. The big question is how much can we develop?”
Cunningham also urged his youngsters to stay grounded after the victory.
He said, “Dublin were probably short a few players today and their focus is on a Leinster or All-Ireland campaign, maybe more so.
“That is not taking away from our guys as it was a tricky enough breeze and we shot some great scores. That is something the supporters and ourselves would be happy with.”
Dublin boss Anthony Daly was critical of his team. He said, “It was a poor performance. You couldn’t call it anything else.
“The way it seemed was the Galway boys wanted the 50/50 balls more on the day than we did. Why that is I don’t know. Everything seemed right during the week. We were happy with the preparation and we were happy with ourselves coming into it. It just didn’t happen for us.”
Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald had to dampen the celebrations after Clare opening their NHL season with a 2-24 to 1-13 win over neighbors Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night – after falling behind early on.
“When we went down five points, it wasn’t looking great, but I had a feeling that we just hadn’t got into gear,” said Fitzgerald.
“We gave up a soft goal at the start and we know why that happened -- it was something that we had talked about for three-to-four weeks coming into this. But that will stand us in good stead going forward.
“But we recovered very well afterwards and they stuck to their stuff. How good were Limerick up there tonight? They just didn’t seem interested after the first half, so I don’t know. I can only think about our lads and they played really well, but Limerick again will be a different kettle of fish.
“It’s only the first round of the league and there’s no point in the people of Clare getting carried away. All they can expect -- and I said this from day one - is a hard --working team.”
New Limerick boss John Allen accepted the result. He said, “We have no excuses. After 15 minutes it looked like we were going to dominate the game, but they started winning at midfield, starting winning in the half back line and they over-ran us from then on.”
Kilkenny carried on where they left off last summer with an emphatic 2-17 to 0-15 win over Tipperary in the opening round of the National Hurling League.
Brian Cody’s side repeated their All-Ireland final victory over the Premier County with an eight point win at Nowlan Park.
Cody, well aware that his team are favorites for the league and championship this season, was happy with the first competitive outing of the year.
He said, “It was a good performance; it is nice to get two points out if it. We got into the game early, settled well and got a couple of quick scores.
“They came back at us for sure but the second goal gave us that bit of breathing space. We’re happy with the way things went.
“Richie Power is going well. He is in good form. I think overall the application was good from everybody and the teamwork was good. It was a good day for us.
“A good start to the league obviously, it was a good display and a good win.”
Tipp boss Declan Ryan was far from happy with the game. He said, “A very disappointing performance I have to say.
“It just looked as if Kilkenny are a couple of steps ahead of us at the minute. Two or three gears ahead overall.”
Kilkenny are now set to make it through to the semifinals, but Cody fears for the teams who will have to make do with just five league games before the championship gets underway.
He added, “As I said before the start of the league, I think most county boards were not in favor of it. Most counties were not in favor of it because of the short number of games and that from a point of view of revenue and everything else.
“But it is there and I’m not going to start worrying about it because we can only take on whatever competition is in front of us.
“Maybe the general opinion is that it is not best for the game but from my brief I’m not going to get caught up in things like that because I can’t control it.”
Cork hurling unearthed a new star as Conor Lehan shone like a diamond in Saturday night’s comprehensive 3-17 to 0-18 win over Waterford in the opening round of the NHL.
Lehan scored seven points from play as Cork made it a winning start for Jimmy Barry-Murphy in his second stint as manager.
“Conor was excellent,” said the Cork boss afterwards. “It wouldn’t take a genius to pick him for the team. He’s a major talent in Cork and people have been saying that for the last couple of years.
“We’re pleased with him and with the result. We did let Waterford back to five points at one stage, so that’s something that we have to work on, we didn’t get enough ball into our full forward line and that wasn’t good enough really.”
New Waterford boss Michael Ryan wasn’t too worried about the defeat to Cork.
Ryan said, “We won’t panic and hopefully by the time the league is over we’ll know a lot more about the strength of our panel.
“There were 10 fellas who would have been in contention for places that were missing and we lost another two during the game.
“But that’s not an excuse. Cork played very well, they have very pacy forwards and they will take a lot of beating in the summer.”
Cork footballers have been ordered to play their Allianz Football League game against Laois away from home as a result of their involvement in a recent brawl in the Division One game at Armagh.
The decision was made after the county appealed a €5,000 fine for their part in the row.
Selector Ger O’Sullivan has criticized the latest decision by the GAA’s disciplinary body.
“We put in our appeal thinking it might be successful, but it didn’t work out and now we move on and prepare for Donegal next week,” said O’Sullivan.
“It’s unfortunate. The biggest regret we have is the inconsistency in a lot of parts of the game, whether it is refereeing, officialdom, sideline officials and umpires and inconsistency at the higher levels.”
OffalyY hammered Laois by 1-27 to 0-18 in the opening round of the National Hurling League, much to the surprise of manager Ollie Baker who acknowledged that the dismissal of Michael McEvoy after 21 minutes severely hampered the losers.
“The sending off upset what had been a competitive match up to that point and we were able to put some distance between ourselves and Laois,” said Baker.
“I’m delighted and if you’d offered me a 12-point win beforehand I’d have taken the hand off you. The attitude of the lads is very good, they are putting in a massive effort in training and we did what we had to in the first 35 minutes when the questions were asked.”
Laois boss Teddy McCarthy said, “We lost our shape after the sending-off and didn’t know how to handle the extra man and it is a learning curve for us all.”