National Hurling League previews: Wexford and Galway battle for silverware

New managers joust for positive starts with Tipperary and Laois, as Micheál Donoghue faces difficult assignment with Dublin away to Waterford

(Matches at 2pm unless stated)


Allianz Hurling League Division 1A

Wexford v Galway, Wexford Park, 5.0 (Live on TG4) – This league encounter is doubling up as the Walsh Cup final, so there is silverware on offer for the winner. The atmosphere at the recent floodlit clash between Wexford and Kilkenny at this venue was brilliant but Henry Shefflin’s Galway shot the lights out as they chalked up some big tallies during the group stages of the Walsh Cup. Verdict: Galway


Cork v Limerick, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7.30 (Live on RTÉ) – The inclusion of Cian Lynch on the Limerick bench is good news for hurling fans, though perhaps not those of a Cork persuasion this weekend. Limerick have experienced hurlers named on every line of the pitch, mixed with others trying to make an impression. But for Cork, who have included four debutants, this remains an ideal opportunity to get their league campaign off to a positive start. They won the Munster SHL and have had a more substantial preseason block of training than Limerick. Verdict: Cork

Division 1B

Antrim v Kilkenny, Corrigan Park, 2.0 [Live, BBC iPlayer] – Kilkenny make the trip to Corrigan Park for the first time in 80 years and, in his first league match in charge, Derek Lyng sets out to chart the county’s new course. A couple of his All-Ireland winning under-20s have already had an introduction with Billy Drennan attracting most attention. Antrim are dogged by injury, including valuable long-term absentees Conor McCann and Ciarán Clarke. They have been competitive at home but the visitors should take the points. Verdict: Kilkenny

Tipperary v Laois, FBD Semple Stadium, 5.0 – Two new managers from Ballingarry with Liam Cahill facing Willie Maher, who took over Laois. Tipp have plenty of upside after a traumatic year and the availability of Loughmore’s Ciarán Connolly and Bryan O’Mara after being away last year is an immediate boost. Laois will be battling relegation but have Clough Ballacolla’s Aaron Dunphy back after a year out. The home side tend not to lose these matches. Verdict: Tipperary


Allianz Hurling League Division 1A

Clare v Westmeath, Cusack Park, Ennis, 2.0 – Westmeath have earned their shot at Division One hurling, but it is difficult to see where the Lake County can pick up enough points to avoid ending up in a relegation playoff. Westmeath will hope to catch Clare cold on the first day out, but Brian Lohan’s Banner side should still have too much firepower for the visitors. Verdict: Clare

Division 1B

Waterford v Dublin, Fraher Field, 2.30 [Deferred coverage, TG4] – David Fitzgerald’s return registers a low-key start in Dungarvan before an attendance limited to 3,600. Micheál Donoghue brings Dublin to the southeast for a first meeting between the managers in five years. In his first season, Donoghue faces challenges with so many experienced players, such as Liam Rushe, Chris Crummey and Cian O’Callaghan, opting out but it was always going to be a rebuilding job. In fact it’s not a bad time to get the home side, who are missing half the team that started their last championship match. It will still be demanding and the holders still have enough quality to deal with the visitors. Verdict: Waterford

♦ The GAA is to introduce a standardised sliotar for this weekend’s opening of the hurling league, writes Seán Moran. In a press release issued on Friday the association said that the ball has been trialled and will assist in upholding production standards.

“The SMART Sliotar was successfully trialled in last year’s o’ under-20 hurling championships. The new chip technology will help ensure that sliotars perform consistently and in line with the GAA sliotar specifications which underpin the integrity of the game, both as a contest and as spectacle.

“It will also help address sliotar counterfeiting and ensure that ethical production and supply chain practices are in place. All approved manufacturers must be signed up to the guidelines enforced by the World Federation of Sports Goods Industry.”

The project to standardise sliotars is nearly 20 years old. The microchipped ball will facilitate this standardisation by making official sliotars easily verified by a mobile phone app.

Use of a sliotar chip/tag – for authentication purposes is a new and unique development and may lead to further developments as technology evolves.

The Sliotar Work Group (SWG) is comprised of Ned Quinn (Chair), Lizzie Broderick, Brendan Cummins, Eoin McDonagh, Terry Reilly and Pat Daly. The group has met 47 times since their formation in June 2021 and held three extensive field-testing sessions.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times