Weekend hurling previews
Pa Cronin returns for Cork this weekend.
SUNDAY (All games 2pm unless stated) DIVISION ONE A Tipperary v Kilkenny, Thurles – Any manager who makes eight changes – either enforced, or otherwise – realises something is not right, and truth is Tipperary manager Eamonn O’Shea can’t afford to get it wrong here. Destroyed by Cork’s appetite in the first round, another defeat would leave Tipp in a deeply worrying state.
O’Shea was always going to require a settling in period, yet defeat would further weaken Tipp’s stance in this measuring rivalry with Kilkenny: last year’s two meetings, in league and championship, afforded Kilkenny a combined winning margin of 26 points, Tipp’s collapse in the All-Ireland semi-final still featuring as the large backdrop here.
Recalling Conor O’Mahony, Lar Corbett, John O’Brien, Eoin Kelly and Pa Bourke – while starting Darren Gleeson in goals in place of Brendan Cummins – may strengthen their hand, but the injured Shane McGrath is a loss. Of greater concern, however, is Kilkenny are coming off a narrow defeat to Galway, and can only be sharper since that game, and few things still give them more pleasure than beating Tipp in Thurles. Cody’s men to prevail.
Waterford v Cork, Dungarvan – Both these teams turned heads in the first round, Cork dismissing all talk of unrest with a dismantling of Tipperary, while Waterford broke Clare’s soaring spirits. Now, they get the chance to prove just how good their form really is.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy continues his latest tenure by giving first starts to forwards Séamus Harnedy and Peter O’Brien: Harnedy was part of UCC’s recent Fitzgibbon Cup winning side, while O’Brien has been displaying great form for his club, Kildorrery. Captain Pa Cronin also returns from suspension, so no reason why Cork won’t pick up where they left off against Tipp.
Waterford are at the most stubborn in Fraher Field, the first round victory in Ennis – against the odds – reinforcing the enduring resolve of Michael Ryan’s men, perfectly mixed in veterans such as Séamus Prendergast and newcomers Brian O’Halloran and Dillon. Waterford’s strength the last day was their defence, but that’s unlikely to sufficiently hold out against Cork’s attack.
Clare v Galway, Ennis – Be careful what you wish for – because as much as Davy Fitzgerald insisted that Division 1A was where Clare wanted to be, testing themselves against the best, a spate of injuries, plus the opening round defeat to Waterford, has added an extra layer of pressure to this game.
With his finest young talents, Conor McGrath, Cian Dillon and Darach Honan, still out injured, resources are a little stretched. Not that they deserved to lose against Waterford, struck down by a late free, but Fitzgerald will demand even more from his players this time.
That’s because Galway arrive as hurling’s in-form team, fresh from a win over Kilkenny, and with Andrew Smith (to start) and Cyril Donnellan (bench) back from suspension. Anthony Cunningham is travelling the short distance down expecting a “dogfight”, and that it surely will be, but the fight in Clare mightn’t be enough to beat the current finesse of Galway.
DIVISION ONE B
Antrim v Dublin, Casement Park – Anthony Daly won’t need reminding Antrim have a bit of a reputation for upsetting Dublin, and throw in the home advantage, this is less straightforward than some might suspect.
Dublin were made work very hard for the opening win over Offaly; Daly pointed to the sodden ground afterwards, suggesting the added burden of playing on such a surface. David O’Callaghan starts in place of Mark Schutte, but otherwise Dublin are unchanged.
Antrim manager Kevin Ryan has recalled the Loughgiel contingent, and gives Benny McCarry a first start, but Dublin are forewarned enough to tackle whatever Antrim throw at them.
Offaly v Wexford, Tullamore – Wexford very nearly conspired to lose their opening game to Carlow, but escaped thanks to two second-half goals, and a double sending off for the opposition, and manager Liam Dunne can’t tolerate any more complacency. He does get to call on dual player Lee Chin, but is without injured Keith Rossiter, PJ Nolan and Jack Guiney.
If promotion is Ollie Baker’s main intention then nothing less than a victory will suffice here, and home advantage should give Offaly the edge in supplying that.
Limerick v Carlow, Gaelic Grounds, 12.45 – Nothing John Meyler said could disguise his disappointment at losing their opening game to Wexford, having been in front for so long, although the sending off of Marty Kavanagh and Eoin Nolan obviously didn’t help. Limerick rode their luck in reverse, only emerging as one-goal winners over Antrim at home. It’s hard to see them being as slow to start again here.
Division Two A– Wicklow v Kildare, Croke Park, 12.15; Westmeath v Derry, Mullingar, 12.45; Laois v Kerry, Portlaoise, 2pm.
Division Two B– Roscommon v Armagh, Athleague, 1pm; London v Down, Ruislip, 1pm; Meath v Mayo, Trim, 2pm
Division Three A:Louth v Fermanagh, Dowdallshill, 1pm; Tyrone v Donegal, Omagh, 12.45; Monaghan v Fingal, Iniskeen, 2pm.
Division Three B: Leitrim v Longford, Ballinamore, 12.45; Warwickshire v Sligo, Páirc na hÉireann, Saturday, 2pm