Allianz League: The weekend’s hurling previews
Seán Moran looks ahead to the action including a relegation battle in Division 1B
Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford face Kilkenny on Sunday. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho
Allianz Hurling League Division 1 quarter-final Laois v Limerick O’Moore Park, 7.0 – live on TG4 The one quarter-final to escape the fixtures pile-up sees John Kiely shuffle the deck with nine changes from last week’s lively draw in Ennis. Barry Hennessy in goal is one of three debutants, as Limerick extend an already formidable depth chart. Following championship success by topping Division 1A represents an impressive campaign. Kiely’s counterpart Eddie Brennan will also be pretty pleased with the season’s work to date, as the obvious ambition would have been to avoid getting caught in the relegation weeds. All of that achieved, the home side can relax to an extent and see how it goes against the All-Ireland champions.
Sunday (2.0 throw-ins unless stated)
Allianz Hurling League
Cork v Tipperary Páirc Uí Rinn – live on TG4
The week’s break has benefited both teams with Cork’s returning Fitzgibbon players getting an extra week’s rest and Tipp heading off to some warm-weather training. The issues at stake remain unchanged: Cork looking to bed in their players and Liam Sheedy’s side hoping to give a decent performance after a couple of disappointing - if narrow - defeats. How will they resolve the free taking issue, given Séamus Callanan’s yips and the availability of Jason Forde? Cork have been impressive in taking the points from Clare and Limerick but the visitors need something from this if they are to progress and that might be sufficient to drive them.
Wexford v Kilkenny Innovate Wexford Park – Deferred, TG4 Kilkenny largely succeeded in putting Wexford back in their box in 2018 and the home side will be aware that they need to address that pendulum swing. Oddly, the 1A table at the moment shows that goals conceded run from table toppers Limerick with most to Tipp at the bottom with least. These teams are locked together with just a scoring difference of one between them, meaning a draw will do David Fitzgerald’s team. The Wexford manager wasn’t happy with the goals conceded against Clare and this is a big challenge against a Kilkenny team coming together quite well in their defence of the league title. Testing time.
Waterford v Galway Walsh Park This meeting between two of the top three in the division is a dead rubber with no promotion on the line. Galway have cruised along comfortably even in the absence of the St Thomas’s players whereas Waterford have been getting players back.
Division 1B relegation play-off
Offaly v Carlow O’Connor Park There’s a sense that Carlow’s big opportunity to ensure Division One hurling next year came last week but the inability to make home advantage count leaves them with a mountain to climb as they must travel to Tullamore. Assuming they can tighten up on the goals conceded, they have a chance but it looks like the home side can escape.
Division 2A final
Westmeath v Kerry Cusack Park, Ennis Westmeath benefited from a goal-rush in the divisional fixture despite looking second-best at times but they can improve performance and get the result and with it, a coveted place in Division One.