Banner lay down a season marker

Is this going to be Clare's year? They're going the right way about it. A 100 per cent record so far in the Allianz League is fair going, even if as hurling purists would argue it's only springtime.

Theres a lot different about Clare this year. 12 months ago their new management were just in the door and the Ballyea contingent were occupied with the club championship.

Fast forward to this weekend.

Eight points from placed balls by Banner full forward Peter Duggan helped them on their way to a 23 points to 19 victory over Cork in Ennis, maintained their winning sequence in the League this season and ensured they became the first county to qualify for the quarter finals.

Some regarded the AIG Super 11 hurling tournament in Boston's iconic Fenway Park in November that involved Clare, Tipp Dublin and Galway as a waste of time. 

And while it was effectively an exhibition match, I spoke to Donal Moloney after the Banners victory and he told me winning that piece of silverware, and the trip in general  would have a major impact on squad thinking and morale.

Clare weren't too far away last year and there is no reason why they can't push on now given both the age profile and pedigree of their squad.

If you're not getting wins in the League you'd want to make pretty sure that you are emerging into the long evenings with a few extra players that can make a contribution in what will be the most testing GAA year ever, with the introduction of round robin fixtures this year.

Enter Castlegar's Jack Coyne and Kevin McHugo of the Tommy Larkins club in Galway who made their senior debuts for the tribesmen in their 2-19 to 14 point victory over Offaly. 

The Westerners are simmering nicely as the year opens up and are beginning to put a bit of distance between themselves, All Ireland celebrations and team holidays.

The annual practice of writing Kilkenny off may have to be shelved for another while, after the cats impressive 1-20 to 12 point win over Waterford at Walsh Park.

Always disappointing when you lose in front of your home crowd, but the contribution of TJ Reid was impressive and the Ballyhale star was a key differential firing 1-11. The most decorated GAA manager ever also tried out newcomers Pat Lyng and Martin Keoghan who showed up well.

Expect intensity to ratchet up another notch next weekend.