All Ireland Hurling Championship – Cats & Dubs are the bets

Lonesharkoy previews the All Ireland Hurling Championship and he thinks Kilkenny will win it yet again while Dublin are value to reach the final.

It’s been a long time since Kilkenny started a championship campaign with odds of 2/1 freely available about them lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup, so the first step towards any discussion of how to attack this year’s ante post markets has to begin with an identification of why that has happened.

On 2015 championship form, there is no clear answer. Kilkenny are still hugely likely to come through Leinster unscathed, while the two counties that were closest to them last Summer (Tipperary and Galway) appear to have slipped back to varying degrees.

The popular wisdom suggests that if the more likely usurpers of the Cast’s crown will be one of the new kids on the block, Clare and Waterford. Already there has been much talk of Clare vs Kilkenny as the dream final; while the somewhat surreal experience that was the league semi-final between those two counties has led many people to anticipate that there will be a passing of the torch taking place.

Undoubtedly, Clare are well poised right now. It’s impossible to overstate the value of Tony Kelly’s return to their side, while Donal Óg Cusack is a huge addition to their backroom team, a move that has clearly added real value already. Nonetheless, the bulk of the difference in price between their 11/2 and the 2/1 about Cody’s men could be attributed to the far greater possibility of landmines on the road to the last four for Clare – and anyway, winning a league semi-final, albeit by a landslide, is not enough for us to suggest that Kilkenny still aren’t the favourites to prevail.

The only real negatives for the Cats is, ironically given their recent history, the lack of a goal threat. Ger Aylward filled that role for them last year but the Glenmore man is going to miss the whole summer this time around, while TJ Reid appears to be spending far more time in the half forward line than was previously the case. Jonjo Farrell may yet turn out to be the net finder that they need, but he has some way to go to prove that.

Critics have been quick to round on the manner in which Kilkenny’s full back line was dismantled in that league semi-final. However let’s not forget that Paul Murphy, arguably the best out and out defender playing hurling at the moment, missed the game due to injury. He has since returned to the Danesfort ranks and will play a part this summer – so you’ll forgive us for stopping short of writing Kilkenny’s obituary just yet.

Of the other frontline contenders, we can say that Tipperary have plenty of talent but they’ve also become borderline unmanageable in recent seasons. Eamonn O’Shea struggled to control them in recent seasons and Michael Ryan was part of the same management team. Their scoring power means they’ll always have a chance and it would be a huge surprise if they didn’t make the last four of the All Ireland series, but at anything less than 5/1 they offer no value. Clare and Waterford are probably accurately assessed based on their potential. However Galway at 8/1 is one of the worst value punts on offer.

Any side with Joe Canning in their ranks always has a chance of doing something special, but all the same flaws that have existed for years are still there. Who else can we say with certainty will start in their forward line for the whole summer, never mind deliver on a consistent basis? Can Fergal Moore come back to the well for yet another season, as is badly needed? David Burke has gone from playing like the best midfielder in Ireland to developing the type of maddening inconsistency that is Galway’s main failing. No team in Ireland is more certain of playing in an All Ireland quarter-final at the very least, but they’ve a huge amount to find on the top sides.

At the risk of falling into a trap that snared us last season, Dublin could yet be overpriced. Last night’s under-21 victory is further evidence that there is a good crop of young hurlers coming up through the metropolitan production line, while Ger Cunningham has showed plenty of faith in his younger hurlers so far, leaving plenty of firepower on the bench. They eased past Wexford with little or no fuss and while Wexford were terrible in that fixture, it shows how far Dublin have come that they were able to win the game in second gear. Unlike Galway, they have a lot of hurling to do to get through to late July – they’ll either have to beat Kilkenny or else run the qualifier gauntlet from the start – however if they were hurling the Tribesmen tomorrow, our money would be on a Dublin win. On that basis, the Dubs get the nod at 10/1 to reach the final with Boylesports, while our main wager is a distinctly unsexy cut at 2/1 about Kilkenny with Paddy Power.

Looking at some of the subsidiary markets, it’s interesting to see the disparity of opinion surrounding the price of Shane Dooley for top scorer. With 2-23 already on the board for the Tullamore man and a minimum of two games still to play, he seems to be well on the way to building a good “clubhouse lead”. That said, Boylesports’ 4/1 seems a lot more accurate than the 2/1 and 9/4 that’s on offer elsewhere, since he’ll still probably have to add another thirty points or so at the very least – and scores won’t come easy for him from now on. Offaly would probably need to beat Laois and somehow get a fourth game in there, and realistically unless they draw Westmeath in the qualifiers (or catch Galway cold and maybe bring the Tribesmen to a replay) then it’s hard to see that happening. Instead we’d look at a county that’s likely to go into the qualifiers and build a run from there – and for all reasons listed above, David Treacy, 14/1 with Paddy Power and Boylesports, fits the bill.

Advised Bets:

Kilkenny to win All Ireland Championship at 2/1 with Paddy Power

Dublin to reach All Ireland Final at 10/1 with Boylesports

David Treacy to be All Ireland series Top Scorer at 14/1 with Paddy Power and Boylesports