The most correct, flawless power rankings usually stick to football. But sometimes, we look at our small ball brethren and think to ourselves “they deserve some of this brilliance, too.”
Here is how the top ten teams in inter-county hurling currently stand, after two-and-a-half rounds of the 2020 National League.
The Best of the rest. Shocked the hurling universe when they beat Dublin last summer and have also been better at Not Getting Hammered than Carlow and Westmeath in Division 1 of the National League this year.
Have beaten Laois and Carlow so far in the league to stave off the threat of being considered outside of the Big Nine. Unfortunately, they got comfortably beaten by 14-man Kilkenny on the opening day of the league and very much team number nine.
If Joe Canning had an extra few metres on that free, they might have got another crack at winning the 2018 All-Ireland. Since then, they’ve failed to get out of Leinster, have had off-field controversy, getting owned by a burger company, and took a decent beating off Limerick in their only meaningful game so far this year. Things don’t look great.
Waterford had the worst scoring difference of any team in the race for Liam McCarthy last year, including Carlow. It was all an elaborate ruse, though, to ensure that they could be considered as ‘trending upwards’ in February 2020. Things don’t seem as gloomy anymore, after a positive start to the league, but they did find themselves in the final of this competition last year. Many are still unsure how that happened.
Brian Lohan beat Davy Fitzgerald a couple of weeks ago and didn’t even shake his hand afterwards. That’s the sort of disrespect we want to see from Clare this year, as they try to bully themselves into the knockout stages of the All-Ireland.
If Cork can clone Patrick Horgan, they will win the All-Ireland this year. Failing that, they still have a decent chance. Considered by many as dark horses last year, Brian Cody out-tacticked John Meyler and Cork’s season ended with a whimper. Kieran Kingston is their new (old) manager and his side have racked up big scores in all their league games so far.
Possibly overachieved by getting to the All-Ireland last year, but even typing that very sentence about a Brian Cody side sends chills down the spine and makes me paranoid for my well being. They could easily take another step forward this year, but you feel Wexford, Tipp and Limerick (at the second time of asking) would all fancy their chances in an All-Ireland semi-final.
The could’ve, should’ve, would’ve team of 2019, going down in heartbreaking circumstances to Tipperary. They feel they would have beaten Kilkenny if they had got to that All-Ireland final. But they didn’t. Davy Fitzgerald is back for one reason only.
Obviously the best team in the country at the end of last season, despite showing signs of weakness against Limerick in the Munster final. They collapsed in the second half of their league encounter with Limerick this year, which suggests that their Munster neighbours know exactly where their Achilles heel is, and may well topple them this year.
John Kiely must have been an angry, angry man all winter long. If he wasn’t pissed off about the ‘65 call that went against them in the Kilkenny match last July, the headlines surrounding his players’ off-field antics might have sent this school principal into a “I’m sending a letter home to your parents” rage. They look primed and ready to show the country that they are, still, the best team in hurling right now.