6 talking points after champions fall and titles are handed out in the weekend’s club hurling action

1. Exit for the All-Ireland champions in Parnell Park

That losing feeling when the stakes are highest has become unfamiliar to the Cuala hurlers. Their comeback fell just short in the Dublin semi-final yesterday against Kilmacud Crokes, marking a first knockout defeat since November 2015 when they lost the Leinster final against Oulart-the-Ballagh and the first reversal in a Dublin knockout tie since Ballyboden overturned them by a point in the 2014 county semi-final.

It’s been a glorious run of late that has yielded a handsome treasure trove from their county, provincial and national hurling exploits. Their loss opens the door for Kilmacud or Ballyboden to make a statement in Dublin while simultaneously changing the dynamic further beyond as the Leinster and All-Ireland club scene will start to take shape in the coming weeks.

2. Changing of the guard in Tipperary

The theme of an era of rule ending also came to pass in Tipperary yesterday. With seven of the last nine county titles to their credit and bidding for five-in-a-row in 2018, these statistics offered persuasive evidence of how much of a scalp it was that Nenagh Éire Óg claimed in disposing of the kingpins Thurles Sarsfields. Unlike their quarter-final the previous week, a slow start this time put paid to the aspirations of the champions despite the stirring fightback they produced late on.

It sets up a novel showpiece, Nenagh aiming to end a 23-year drought and Clonoulty hoping to halt a 21-year barren spell. Between them the pair have lost seven county finals over the last two decades. There will be a momentous breakthrough for one of them on 21 October.

2-18 to 2-15 – Full Time

Congratulations to our lads, another great battle with Thurles Sarsfields, and we will play Clonoulty Rossmore in the County Final.

— Nenagh Éire Óg (@nenagheireog) October 7, 2018

Source: Nenagh Éire Óg/Twitter

3. Ballygunner to shift aim to Munster

The expected outcome at the Fraher Field, Ballygunner’s grip on Waterford hurling showing no sign of wavering. Five-in-a-row is a feat they will cherish, the latest success arriving after a 12-point dismissal of an Abbeyside outfit chasing their maiden crown. That followed a 25-point victory in their semi-final crushing of Passage and means Ballygunner have smashed the hopes of five different clubs on county final day since 2014.

With their superiority in Waterford now confirmed, the trick is to translate that to the Munster stage. Ballygunner have only once won their provincial title – back in 2001 – and have been runner-up (8 times) in a final more than any other club. Having lost two of the last three deciders, the current crop will be gearing up for a title at getting over the line in Munster.

Ballygunner players celebrate after their county final success.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

4. Familiar look to Limerick’s final four

Limerick have installed a new ‘Super Six’ group stage hurling format this year for their senior hurling championship but have ended up with a final four that has a familiar look to it. Na Piarsaigh, Doon, Kilmallock and Patrickswell comprise the quartet after the latter pair won their quarter-final ties yesterday.

It’s the top four from Group 1 of the round-robin stage and the same teams that featured in last year’s semi-finals. Na Piarsaigh, Patrickswell and Kilmallock have won the eight titles between them, while Doon chase a first final showing since 2000 with four Limerick All-Ireland winners in their ranks and a plethora of recent underage titles. The repeat of last year’s decider as Na Piarsaigh take on Kilmallock is the standout of next Sunday’s semi-finals.

5. Clare’s novelty continues to shine through

Having produced ten champions in the last 14 seasons, the intensely competitive nature of the Clare senior hurling scene is striking. Ballyea and Cratloe confirmed their passage to this year’s final over the weekend, and while both are recent champions, they still represent a novel pairing.

Ballyea won their first ever title two years ago with Cratloe’s inaugural crown arriving in 2009 and they picked up another in 2014. It’s the first time the duo will have faced off against each other in a decider. With eight players involved who have had Clare senior hurling experience of late, there’ll be plenty talent on show.

6. Leinster finalists fall in Offaly

Cuala were not the only major force in Leinster club hurling circles to be toppled at the weekend. Kilcormac-Killoughey were provincial champions in 2013 while they contested deciders in 2015 and last December.

What a feeling! #31 pic.twitter.com/dv7zF3fnko

— Brian Carroll (@BrianCarroll13) October 7, 2018

Source: Brian Carroll/Twitter

That’s a decent body of work to put together yet they couldn’t quite manage to get over the line in Offaly yesterday, edged aside on final day by Coolderry, the other club who have dominated in that county of late. Coolderry have now won four titles since 2010 and with a bunch of players still around from the 2012 All-Ireland club decider, they won’t lack experience as they embark on the Leinster circuit.

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