The National Hurling League has gone through three rounds of mud-battling to leave the public very confused. Cork were back, then Dublin were back, then Kilkenny were gone….and above all Wexford are back WOOHOO!
Unlike the many games of the Premier League or Major League Baseball, us hurling fans are not used to the week-in week-out changing nature of sports. We like to watch one-off matches and judge teams for that match alone. Players and Managers have been abused on the back of one poor performance – In baseball The World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs, lost 58 regular season games! Cody struggles with two.
I’ve had a look at some of the numbers behind the league to date…..
Looking at team selection details can tell you a little. Which teams are experimenting in the league, or which teams are picking a strong first team looking to win.
Looking at the three tables above you can see that both Galway, Laois and Limerick have been chopping and changing. Galway have had time to try out 30 different hurlers in the three rounds to date, Michael Donoghue is using their first trip to Division 1B to see their full panel.
Limerick have collected a good few years of strong under-age teams and seem to be struggling to find the best combination of young talent to start. Eamonn Kelly, meanwhile, is scouring his new county of Laois for talent, and they have worked hard at under-age in the past while so he may yet find a few gems.
On the other end of the scale Wexford and Waterford are working off of smaller panels. Seven of Waterford’s team has been constant throughout the 3 rounds. Derek McGrath has picked the same names in 5 defending positions and at goalkeeper, this is understandable as he has faced Tipperary, Kilkenny and a trip to Dublin in his first 3 games. Wexford have been pushing hard for promotion with opening games against Galway and Limerick limiting Davy Fitz’s selection policy.
Much has been made of Brian Cody’s search for a new Kilkenny team but the selection’s show he has built this new team around seven key players who have started every game – Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh, Conor Fogarty, Cillian Buckley, TJ Reid and Richie Hogan. These seven have had 18 different players tried around them in different lines of the pitch. Conor O Shea already looks like a solid addition to their side.
The Main Clubs
I’m always interested in seeing which clubs are providing the most key players to each county team. Last year Cuala had more hurlers selected for their county than any other club in Ireland, it is therefore no surprise to see them reach the All Ireland Club Final to face Clare’s Ballyea. This success of Cuala has had a major impact on Ger Cunningham’s Dublin in the league so far. Below is a table of the clubs who have had hurlers play the most minutes to date in the league.
Kerry hurling is clearly reliant on a small group of clubs with 5 clubs making the top 20. Kerry have picked their squad from 7 clubs in the county and Clarecastle in Clare.
The 2016 All-Ireland Club Champions, Na Piarsiagh of Limerick are alongside Borris in Ossory-Kilcotton (2016 Laois Champions) and Kilmacud Crokes with 6 hurlers selected for the league, an impressive achievement for any club.
The Set-Piece Battle
Looking at the results to date we can break down the scoring numbers for each county by their differential on scoring from set-pieces.
This table shows us that both Limerick and Wexford have outscored their oppositions by 9 points from frees, 65’s and sidelines. Wexford have made an excellent start to their league with tight wins against Limerick and Galway, this can only have been aided by conceding only 1-10 from placed ball in total over the three games. Limerick would argue that a blown penalty call in Wexford Park would see them further ahead in this table and also top of Division 1B!
On the bottom of the table you see Kerry and Dublin. Kerry have given away 2-27 from placed balls, seven points more than any other team and this is something they should be focusing on reducing. Dublin have a worryingly low scoring balance of minus 11. They have lost games against Waterford and Tipperary conceding 0-10 and 0-9 from placed balls in those games. Even in their win against Cork they were outscored 0-7 to 0-5 from placed balls. This leaves them 9 points below from their nearest Division 1A team, Kilkenny.
Below are the top scorers from play for Division 1A and 1B. I have separated them out as Galway have been obliterating the table with huge scores against Laois and Offaly.
It is no surprise to see John McGrath top of the table. Stephen Bennett jumped up to the top after his 2-2 scored against Dublin at the weekend.
Division 1B sees a plethora of Galway men take over after their monster wins. Conor McDonald has made the top table after games against Limerick and Galway, in a team with a sweeper – no mean feat.
All numbers and information has been taken from our trusty newspapers and the42.ie. Any changes or emails from Podge Collins to lower John McGrath’s score is more than welcome!