Nicky English

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 HURLING -

Yes. There’s been no change in the cham­pi­onship for a while and this is real change. I think it’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing. It in­creases the pres­sure on play­ers with matches week in, week out. It won’t be all good news for those who like to watch games, as the tight sched­ule means it won’t be pos­si­ble to see a lot of them. Over­all it’s bet­ter than teams be­ing be­hind closed doors all the time. It’s also un­cer­tain, which is good as well. No­body knows how it’s go­ing to turn out. It’s not that long since Kilkenny were on top so see­ing them back in the league was no great sur­prise. They’ll be com­pet­i­tive but I’d tem­per judge­ment on the na­tional league. It was played in very poor con­di­tions - win­ter rather than spring hurl­ing - and there was a doubt about form. Coun­ties were also deep­en­ing their squads with the new for­mat in mind so the 2018 league mightn’t be as re­li­able a cham­pi­onship in­di­ca­tor as it was be­tween 2001 and 2017. Kilkenny have to be viewed in that con­text. This de­pends a lot on who wins the All-Ire­land and the new for­mat makes that very open. TJ Reid is the best player at the mo­ment but I looked at the list of con­tenders a while ago and for me the value bet was Cian Lynch . He’s a great hurler and I fancy Lim­er­ick to do well. After get­ting to a league semi-fi­nal, maybe Lim­er­ick aren’t that much of a sur­prise but un­like 15 years ago when they also did well at un­der-21, the cur­rent crop have more for­wards and greater scor­ing power even if they need to cut down on wastage. Those play­ers have also played a very im­por­tant role in the suc­cess of Lim­er­ick col­leges in the Fitzgib­bon. It’s hard to make a call on Gal­way at the mo­ment in that I’d have con­cerns about their en­ergy lev­els. If they can hit the stride they hit last year, they will win but if not, it’s any­one’s – in­clud­ing Lim­er­ick’s.

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