Posted on 27 Jul 2012 at 04:33 AM by Lone Shark
Sunday's hurling double header from Semple Stadium will certainly provide something for everyone - there is a David vs Goliath act, one projected close call match, a real mix in the betting and four of the best hurling teams in the country battling it out for a place in the last four of the All Ireland race.
Kilkenny are the hottest of favourites to advance, with Hills and Boylesports heading the betting market at 1/8 about the Cats winning inside the distance. Hills are clearly trying to draw in some business here of any type because they're also best priced about Limerick at 7/1 with Bet365. Meanwhile draw bettors can get 16/1 in several places in the market.
Galway's performance against Kilkenny in the Leinster Hurling final supposedly changed the entire hurling landscape and undoubtedly the betting market was completely shaken up by that result. Having been priced as short as 4/11 to win the All Ireland before the game, Kilkenny are now an odds against bet to win the All Ireland, with Galway and Tipperary vying for the second spot in the market. Cork are still quite short, too short even at 12/1, while you can have fancy prices about Waterford or Limerick lifting the big prize.
This week, the conundrums facing the betting community are these - which Waterford team will show up, and how will Kilkenny deal with yet more injuries?
Taking the second question first, our suspicion is that the Cats will do just fine. Babs Keating spoke recently about the modern sliothar and how midfield play has become redundant, but he could not have been more wrong. Midfield play as he knew it in the 1970s is redundant, but that doesn't mean that modern midfield play is any less important - it just means that it's different. In the Munster under-21 semi final played last week between Tipperary and Limerick, midfielder and captain Denis Maher chipped in with 1-3 from the middle and won the man of the match award in the process. All half backs and midfielders are now expected to score, while defensively, they now have to put in even more tackles since they are defending the scoring zone. All of this must be done within the context of competing for puckout breaks, which is of course a vital part of the game.
Kilkenny may have sustained more injuries up front (Colin Fennelly) and in defence (Brian Hogan, JJ Delaney) but they have got their first choice midfield pairing of Michael Fennelly and Michael Rice back in harness. Galway's dominance in the Leinster final stemmed from midfield dominance, we think Kilkenny will enjoy that this Sunday and will prevail as a result, probably by more than the eight point handicap that is currently betting in most firms.
Between league and championship, Waterford have had more than enough ups and downs this year, but generally they go well at Semple Stadium and they should fancy their chances of doing so yet again against Cork this weekend. The Rebels have improved under Jimmy Barry Murphy but they had gone back a long way last year, as we saw in the variance between how Cork and Waterford got on in their championship games against Galway in 2011. There is a danger here that people are mistaking improvement for real All Ireland contention, and the betting market suggests that this could be the case as the blood and bandages men are all the rage. .
So far this year Cork have played Tipp at home and lost, admittedly by very little - they then beat Offaly with a lot of help from kind refereeing calls, and Wexford after that. It's hardly any preparation for taking on a fired up Waterford side, who are infinitely better than their Wexford neighbours right now. Cork have problems at half back and indeed at ball winning off their own puckout, so there's a way in for Waterford and now that they/re back into their summer home, 15/8 makes plenty of appeal.