Dublin hurlers need a point to be safe from relegation and to make quarter-finals

Allianz Football and Hurling League previews

Galway’s  Joe Canning: his recent return strengthens the side  but the balance of motivation – for Dublin, a possible return to Nowlan Park for a relegation play-off – favours a Dublin win. Photograph: Inpho

Galway’s Joe Canning: his recent return strengthens the side but the balance of motivation – for Dublin, a possible return to Nowlan Park for a relegation play-off – favours a Dublin win. Photograph: Inpho

 

Allianz Football League Division Two Galway v Laois, Tuam Stadium, 2.0 – Two teams going in different directions over the past couple of weeks: Laois’s centrefield-driven comeback in Navan was impressive whereas Galway’s home defeat to struggling Cavan created gloom in the county in a week that was otherwise notable for Corofin’s sparkling All-Ireland success. With Shane Walsh looking hungry off the bench, the home side can however respond. Verdict: Galway.

Roscommon v Meath, Dr Hyde Park, 3.0 – A big match that will see the winners move into clear second place. Meath’s disappointing loss of initiative last week came hand-in-hand with more bad news on the injury front as Andrew Tormey pulled a hamstring and misses out today. Roscommon ran riot against Kildare to get their campaign back on track and can keep it there. Verdict: Roscommon.

Division Four Leitrim v London, Carrick-on-Shannon, 1.0 – A great second-half display by Leitrim against table toppers Offaly two weeks ago nearly sprang a shock. They had to settle for a draw but will be in a good frame of mind to pick up a first win against the side at the other end. Verdict: Leitrim.

Allianz Hurling League [Matches at 2.0 unless stated.] Division One A Cork v Tipperary, Páirc Uí Rinn – A dead rubber between the old rivals, who have both qualified for the quarter-finals. Cork continue to shuffle the deck, bringing Luke O’Farrell and Alan Cadogan back after resting them against Galway. What overt motivation there is will relate to the All-Ireland semi-final hammering suffered by Cork last summer - in fact they haven’t won this fixture since the opening day of the 2013 league. Tipp looked lively and effective in Thurles last week. Eamon O’Shea was rightly cautious afterwards in that his team were faced with effectively a one-man attack. The second-half clampdown on the menace of Richie Hogan certainly took no chances but it was important not to get another bad result against such an understrength Kilkenny side. Cork’s attack has been hugely productive to date, averaging just over 1-23 per match, and can redress the recent imbalance between the counties. Verdict: Cork. Possibilities: Both counties have qualified for the quarter-finals.

Dublin v Galway, Parnell Park – The tightness of the six-team division has meant that over the past two years the ultimately relegated teams – Cork and Waterford – both started the seasons well, losing just one of their opening three matches. This is an uncomfortable reflection for Dublin, who set a fine clip in their opening matches but who have creaked in the past two fixtures. The inability to do better against depleted teams – Kilkenny exerted late pressure when down to 13 and last week Clare bounced back with 14 - has raised concerns but back on home turf against a side on the same number of points, who have nothing to play for this should go Dublin’s way. Galway though won their last league visit here (albeit, four years ago) and already this season have beaten Dublin in the Walsh Cup final. Joe Canning’s recent return strengthens them but the balance of motivation – for Dublin, a possible return to Nowlan Park for a relegation play-off (eeek!) – favours a home win. Verdict: Dublin. Possibilities: Galway have qualified for the quarter-finals on the head-to-head with the counties below them and Dublin need a point to be safe from relegation and to make the quarter-finals.

Kilkenny v Clare, Nowlan Park – Kilkenny v Clare, Nowlan Park – It’s unusual to find Kilkenny in a match in which they have nothing tangible to play for but such disinterest doesn’t come naturally. Ballyhale’s consummate club victory during the week indicated how the county will benefit from the return of those players. One way or the other, though, the holders will be in next week’s relegation final. They will have to get along without scorer-in-chief the injured Richie Hogan and their opponents and predecessors as All-Ireland champions Clare have something to play for as there’s still a chance of progress. Off-field turbulence may focus attention on the pitch where displays to date have been patchy but not too far from clicking, which they did to rescue a vital win last week and also keep Dublin in their sights. Tony Kelly’s Fitzgibbon form has been maintained and they can be expected to do what they need to here and see where it takes them. Verdict: Clare. Possibilities: Kilkenny are definitely in the relegation play-off but Clare can escape by winning this and hoping Galway do them a favour by beating Dublin. Verdict: Clare. Possibilities: Kilkenny are definitely in the relegation play-off but Clare can escape by winning this and hoping Galway do them a favour by beating Dublin.

Division One B Wexford v Waterford, Innovate Wexford Park – A late reprieve for Wexford courtesy of Offaly’s win over Limerick gives Liam Dunne’s side a winner-takes-all shot at Waterford. The visitors have been impressive from the first day when they secured a draw in Limerick. Their players have individually been in good form . On their championship roll last year Wexford won the qualifier meeting but Waterford have looked better this season but not to the extent that Wexford Park isn’t a factor. The most significant of tomorrow’s fixtures. Verdict: Waterford. Possibilities: Winner takes promotion but a draw will suffice for Waterford. Both have qualified for quarter-finals.

Limerick v Laois, Kilmallock – A sickener for Limerick last week in losing to Offaly and watching promotion hopes evaporate yet again. Within the county they must be wondering will they ever get back to the top flight. Regardless of the Offaly defeat however they would have struggled with Waterford’s scoring difference were they level on points. Laois haven’t done as well as some of the more optimistic forecasts and won’t be in the quarter-finals but they have been more competitive than some of the score-lines indicate. Verdict: Limerick. Possibilities: Limerick have qualified for quarter-finals and Laois will be in next week’s relegation play-off.

Antrim v Offaly, Ballycastle – This fixture was a source of embarrassment to Offaly last year when beaten in the relegation play-off a week after a big win over the same opposition at home. Offaly have had a much better season this year – only last week holing Limerick’s promotion campaign below the water-line – and won’t be revisiting the indignity of facing off against the Division Two A winners. Antrim have been disappointing, not taking any home points so far and that may well remain the case this weekend. Verdict: Offaly. Possibilities: Offaly have qualified for the quarter-finals and Antrim will be in next week’s relegation play-off. Division Two A Westmeath v Carlow, Cusack Park – The winners will be in the final with a chance of proceeding to take on the losers of Laois-Antrim in the promotion/relegation play-off. Home advantage can copper-fasten this for Westmeath. Kerry v London, Austin Stack Park – Kerry are well positioned to leap-frog the losers in Mullingar and will do so (unless it’s a draw). After that it’s down to Derry’s result. Derry v Wicklow, Owenbeg – Wicklow are already relegated. Derry have a chance of making the final. They drew the regulation match with Kerry and trail them by only two points in scoring difference.

Division Two B Mayo v Armagh, Elvery’s MacHale Park, Meath v Down, Trim, Donegal v Kildare, Letterkenny. Division Three A Tyrone v Roscommon, Omagh, Fermanagh v Monaghan, Brewster Park, Fingal v Louth, Swords. Division Three B Warwickshire v Leitrim, Páirc na hÉireann, 1.0, Longford v Sligo, (off).

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