Galway and Tipp set to battle for quarter-final spot

Tribesmen aiming to make home advantage count against All-Ireland champions

Shane O’Neill: “We have a tasty match against Tipp now, the postponed game, and it’s particularly good to have two home games in a row.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Shane O’Neill: “We have a tasty match against Tipp now, the postponed game, and it’s particularly good to have two home games in a row.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

It was definitely the wettest February in many years, in some parts of the country the wettest February on record, and it leaves the GAA hoping March brings more spring-like conditions to avoid further fixture chaos.

In confirming their refixture details for the remaining games in the Allianz Hurling League, there is no room for further manoeuvre, unless they push the whole thing back again – the final, originally scheduled for Sunday March 22nd, now pencilled in for the Saturday/Sunday March 28th/29th, the same weekend as the Allianz Football League finals (and presumably on the same double bill, as happened last year).

Two of the third round games in Division One Group A, postponed over the weekend of February 15th/16th due to Storm Dennis, will take place this weekend, effectively serving as the last round.

On Saturday evening at the LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick will face Waterford, essentially to decide who will top the group and progress straight to the semi-finals, or else go into the quarter-finals. Nothing major to lose, in other words, Limerick boasting the superior scoring difference and likely to progress to the semi-finals even if they lose.

In the other Division One Group A refixture, set for Sunday, Galway and Tipperary face-off in Salthill to decide the other quarter-final position; both on four points, neither team can top the group, and are thus playing for either second or third.

The Division One relegation play-off between Westmeath and Carlow has also been confirmed for TEG Cusack Park (2pm), the Division 3A final between Armagh and Donegal also going ahead at Pearse Park Longford (2pm).

It also means the Division One hurling quarter-final ties as expected have been pushed back to the weekend of March 14th/15th, with the semi-finals taking place a week later.

It’s the third successive year the tightly-coiled hurling league schedules were snapped in the middle due to the weather. Only the Group B fixtures were completed on time, Clare Wexford and Kilkenny all into the play-offs, Dublin and Laois left idle now until the Leinster hurling championship begins on May 10th, a full 10 weeks away, or 70 days, whichever sounds less daunting.

It’s the same fate facing Cork (and either Tipperary or Galway) as they await the start of the Munster hurling championship.

“We have a tasty match against Tipp now, the postponed game, and it’s particularly good to have two home games in a row,” Galway manager Shane O’Neill said after his team beat Cork last Sunday, with hopes they will be able to make home advantage count again against Tipperary.

Financial measure

The long-break may be welcomed by Dublin hurling manager Mattie Kenny, especially with the news former captain Chris Crummey will be ruled out for up to 12-14 weeks with a shoulder injury.

“It’s a bit of a blow to us at the moment, but we’ll work with him and make sure we’ll get on top of his rehab, and get him back on the pitch as soon as possible,” said Kenny. Crummey will likely miss Dublin’s opening two Leinster Championship games, when they host Kilkenny and travel to Wexford.

The recurring problems in the hurling league schedules have focused attention on the anomaly – in a greatly tightened calendar – of the hurling league’s quarter-final round. Whereas football has reverted to a straight final between the top two counties in each division to decide titles, hurling continues to add a layer of three knockout rounds to the regulation fixtures.

This was originally introduced as largely a financial measure to provide additional gate revenue for hurling counties by giving them extra matches, as the top divisions had been reduced to six, guaranteeing some counties just two home matches.

Originally most controversy focused on the idea of playing the top four counties in Divisions 1A and 1B against each other even though they were hierarchical groupings, the fifth-highest county therefore was excluded, while the 10th went into the draw.

That structure was changed again for this year, mixing up the divisions and leaving the weaker counties, who previously had access to quarter-finals – those ranked seventh to 10th (i.e.) the top four in the lower division – with little chance of emulating that.

On Saturday night, meanwhile, Fermanagh will host Armagh in Enniskillen for the refixed Allianz Football League Division 2 clash.

Allianz Hurling Fixtures - Saturday/Sunday March 14th/15th

Division 1 quarter-finals: Group A second-placed team v Kilkenny, TBC;

Group A third-placed team v Wexford, TBC.

Division 2A final: First-placed team v second-placed team, TBC

Division 2B final: Down v Kildare/Derry, TBC

Division 3B final: Sligo v TBC.

Division 1 semi-finals (Saturday/Sunday March 21st/22nd)

Group A first-placed team v quarter-final winner, TBC; Clare v quarter-final winner, TBC, TBC

Division 1 Final (Saturday/Sunday March 28th/29th)

This week’s fixtures -

Wednesday

Munster U20FC final: Kerry v Cork, Austin Stack Park, 7.30pm

Friday

Leinster U20FC final: Dublin v Laois, Netwatch Cullen Park, 7.30pm

Saturday

Allianz Hurling League

Division 1 Group A round 3: Limerick v Waterford, LIT Gaelic Grounds, 7pm

Connacht U20FC final: Galway v Roscommon, Tuam Stadium, 2pm

Sunday

Allianz Hurling League

Division 1 Group A round 3: Galway v Tipperary, Pearse Stadium, 2pm

Division 1 relegation play-off: Westmeath v Carlow, TEG Cusack Park, 2pm

Division 2A round 3: Offaly v Antrim, O’Connor Park, 2pm

Division 2B round 3: Derry v Kildare, Celtic Park, 2pm

Division 2B relegation play-off: London v Warwickshire, McGovern Park, 1pm

Division 3B round 3: Fermanagh v Sligo, Brewster Park, 2pm

Division 3A final: Armagh v Donegal, Pearse Park Longford, 2.0

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