Manager: Brian Cody (13th season).
2010 NHL: 4th Div 1 (P7, W4, L3).
Five league titles, plus finishing as runners-up in 2007, since 2002 underlines the significance Kilkenny attach to the league and it won’t be any different this time. Unusually, they lost three league games last year and while they head into this year’s campaign with a weakened hand, so do most of their rivals. The difference is that Kilkenny have better back-up than all the others, with the possible exception of Tipperary.
Prospects: Their favourites’ rating is self-explanatory.
Odds: Title 6/4; Relegation 250/1.
Manager: Declan Ryan (1st season).
2010 NHL: 3rd Div 1 (P7, W4, D1, L2).
How smooth will the transition between Liam Sheedy and Declan Ryan be? How will Tipperary react to coping with the pressures of performing as All-Ireland champions? Two unanswerable questions at this stage, but there’s no doubt Tipp have the basic ingredients needed to compete against the best. That will show more in the championship than the league. However, they have enough strength-in-depth to mount a big challenge for the league too.
Prospects: Four home games helps what’s an already strong case.
Odds: Title 7/4; Relegation 100/1.
Manager: John McIntyre (3rd season).
2010 NHL: Winners (P8, W7, L1).
No All-Ireland semi-final appearance since 2005 leaves them worse off in championship terms than Kilkenny, Wexford, Tipperary, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Clare, so the target for this year is pretty clear. And the league? They’ve got to go for everything, albeit experimenting all the way, because if they’re to improve their championship prospects they need to overhaul a model which has failed so far.
Prospects: They generally do well in the league and will be contenders for a place in the final, but might lose out to the ‘Big Two.’
Odds: Title 9/2; Relegation 33/1.
Manager: Denis Walsh (3rd season).
2010 NHL: Beaten finalists (P8, W5, D1, L2).
The big win over Tipperary in last year’s Munster championship was overshadowed by their subsequent defeat by Waterford and totally eclipsed by the collapse against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final. Still, Cork are in the group chasing Tipperary and Kilkenny and could have a better season than many seem to think.
Prospects: More likely to be a summer than spring force, even if they did reach last year’s league final.
Odds: Title 8/1; Relegation 16/1.
Manager: Davy Fitzgerald (4th season).
2010 NHL: 5th Div 1 (P7, W3, D2, L2).
Equally priced to win the title or be relegated, the former is generous, the latter is not, since they’re most unlikely to be down in the basement. They have four away games, but Waterford can perform well anywhere. Third on the overall rankings list for the last few years, they have done better in the championship than the league. That may well be the case again this year.
Prospects: Four away games won’t encourage their supporters to take the 12/1 odds to land the title.
Odds: Title 12/1; Relegation 12/1.
Manager: Joe Dooley (4th season).
2010 NHL: 7th Div 1 (P7, W2, L5).
Progress has been steady and, probably more importantly, stable and sustainable which is why it was so important for Joe Dooley to stay aboard this season. Offaly have Galway, Dublin, Wexford and Waterford at home, which provides a solid platform to pick up enough points to keep them clear of relegation.
Prospects: Two wins from seven games was enough to keep them in Division 1 last year, but then a depleted Limerick were always relegation-bound. There’s no such certainty this year, so the target has to be at least five points.
Odds: Title 33/1; Relegation 11/4.
Manager: Anthony Daly (3rd season).
2010 NHL: 6th Div 1 (P7, W2, L5).
Dublin are past the stage where this season comes under a ‘work-in-progress’ heading. It’s time to prove that they are ready for something more than being voted ‘most likely to make the breakthrough’. Four away games leaves them at a disadvantage, but, again, this is the type of challenge they must start rising to.
Prospects: With four away games and two of their home ties in Croke Park against Tipperary and Kilkenny, it could turn into a very tricky campaign.
Odds: Title 66/1; Relegation 11/4.
Manager: Colm Bonnar (3rd season).
2010 NHL: Div 2 champions — promoted (P8, W6, D1, L1).
Back in Division 1, they could have done with four home games, but the 4-3 split went against them, leaving them away to Galway, Kilkenny, Offaly and Tipperary. There won’t be many points available on the road (although Wexford would fancy themselves against Offaly), so they need to do well at home. Favourites to be relegated, that’s assuming, of course, the league format isn’t changed again.
Prospects: Avoiding relegation would represent a good campaign. It’s a tall order but they will be targeting Offaly and Dublin, in particular.
Odds: Title 80/1; Relegation 5/6.
By Martin Breheny – Irish Independent