Manager: Darren Gleeson (4th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 1000/1 and Leinster 200/1
First up: v Dublin, Corrigan Park, 22nd April, 2.0
Gradually putting some daylight between themselves and the other middle ranking counties having secured a fourth season in Division One. Neil McManus still a formidable leader and Nigel Elliot a welcome return after three years in Australia. Tipp match aside, their home form is respectable. Key match this weekend.
Manager: Micheál Donoghue (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 80/1; Leinster 14/1
First up: v Antrim, Corrigan Park, 22nd April, 2.0
Priority in the league was talent identification and results were correspondingly underwhelming. Attack disrupted through the various injuries to Alex Considine, Cian O’Sullivan and Ronan Hayes. Dónal Burke still carrying the scoreboard burden and Eoghan O’Donnell a big presence at the back. Sights on the top three.
Manager: Henry Shefflin (2nd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 7/1; Leinster evens
First up: v Wexford, Pearse Stadium, 22nd April, 4.30
Galway’s exemplary inconsistency must be baffling Henry Shefflin. Last year’s poor display against Kilkenny prefigured an epic tilt at Limerick. Questionable engagement with league hasn’t really clarified things apart from the bad news of David Burke’s injury. Still have highest ceiling outside champions – but rarely reach that height.
Manager: Derek Lyng (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 8/1; Leinster 6/5
First up: v Westmeath, UPMC Nowlan Park, 22nd April, 6.0
Kilkenny struggled at times with Derek Lyng’s tactical realignment but still reached league final where Limerick taught a hard lesson. Some year, TJ Reid will stop being a hurler of the year nominee. Not what they were, especially in terms of a big half-back platform, but well capable of retaining Leinster and making hard yards for anyone.
Manager: Joe Fortune (2nd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 1000/1; Leinster 500/1
First up: v Kilkenny, UPMC Nowlan Park, 22nd April, 6.0
Secured a fourth season in five in Division One and showed signs of improvement in a tough league. All Star nominee Killian Doyle’s accuracy from the placed ball makes his injury-enforced absence a major setback for an attack that has been short on goals. Took a point off Wexford last year but a hard road beckons.
Manager: Darragh Egan (2nd year)
Odds: All-Ireland 50/1 and Leinster 9/1
First up: v Galway, Pearse Stadium, 22nd April, 4.30
A poor league in contrast to last year and beset by injuries to key players, not all of which have cleared up. Attempts to uncover new talent weren’t conspicuously successful and recent form in challenge matches not brilliant. Need everyone back on board. Opening with a key match and up against it.
Manager: Brian Lohan (4th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 16/1; Munster 9/1
First Up: v Tipperary, Cusack Park, 23rd April, 4.0
Have managed to slip under the radar a bit despite being unbeaten in last year’s Munster round robin and topping the table. Provincial competitiveness against Limerick overshadowed by All-Ireland semi-final disaster. Aidan McCarthy back and Shane O’Donnell ready to go. Can Tony Kelly keep shooting the lights out?
Manager: Pat Ryan (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 10/1; Munster 15/2
First Up: v Waterford, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 30th April, 4.0
Spread net wide in encouraging league until defeat by Kilkenny in the semi-final. Darragh Fitzgibbon and Patrick Horgan due back for championship but haven’t played this year. One of successes to date, Eoin Downey at full back, is suspended for first match and other injuries weaken the defence.
Manager: John Kiely (7th year)
Odds: All-Ireland 8/15; Munster 3/10
First Up: v Waterford, FBD Semple Stadium, 23rd April, 2.0
A local estimate last year was that they could drop 15 per cent and still win the All-Ireland, which they did despite loss of Cian Lynch and Peter Casey. Both now restored to fitness and some new talent added, like Shane O’Brien, although involved with under-20s. Also look in better physical shape. Odds tell their own story.
Manager: Liam Cahill (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 16/1; Munster 9/1
First Up: v Clare, Cusack Park, 23rd April, 4.0
Although ship has been steadied, injuries have taken a toll with Paddy Cadell out for season. Veterans Cathal Barrett and Séamus Callanan due back, albeit without much game time, but Bryan O’Mara’s return a definite plus on last year. Unbeaten going into semi-final where they lost honourably to Limerick and top scorers in Division One. Will compete.
Manager: David Fitzgerald (1st year)
Odds: All-Ireland 25/1; Munster 16/1
First Up: v Limerick, FBD Semple Stadium, 23rd April, 2.0
Wracked by injuries during the league, Waterford have recovered most of the absentees although Shane McNulty and Iarlaith Daly miss out this weekend. Tactical trials with arch-shooter Dessie Hutchinson playing deep have been puzzling but surely experimental. Hardest match first and will target rattling Cork next week to challenge for qualification. Outliers.