Allianz Hurling League Previews

Galway’s Joe Canning in action against Kilkenny’s Conor Fogarty and TJ Reid last summer. He will miss out on the clash  at Pearse Stadium due to injury. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Galway’s Joe Canning in action against Kilkenny’s Conor Fogarty and TJ Reid last summer. He will miss out on the clash at Pearse Stadium due to injury. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Today Division 1 A Cork v Dublin, Croke Park, 5 pm
– Ger Cunningham’s opening chapter as Dublin manager could not be more assured. Crisp, accurate passing was the trademark to their eye-opening win down in Kilkenny, a victory notable for the 0-25 they accumulated in a performance that threatened to leave the Cats far behind at one stage. The concession of the late goals is a worry for the Dubs as Jimmy Barry Murphy brings a strong team to try and spoil his former team-mates’ perfect league start. Shane O’Neill has been drafted into the Cork full back line for the injured Damian Cahalane. Cork have pace and athleticism and impressed against Clare a fortnight ago.
Verdict: Cork .

Division 1B Offaly v Waterford, O’Connor Park, 3.0 – Brian Whelahan’s squad face a scrap to show that they can compete with the best teams in this division. Waterford strolled to a win against Laois last time out as Derek McGrath continues to shuffle youth and experience, advertising Brick Walsh’s play-anywhere facility in the half forward line this season. Curtailing Pauric Mahony is a key task for Offaly but there will be hard pressed to avoid defeat.
Verdict: Waterford

Sunday Division 1 A 2.0 unless stated Galway v Kilkenny, Pearse Stadium
– The reunion of referee Barry Kelly, of whom Brian Cody was heavily critical after last year’s All-Ireland win, provides an intriguing subplot to this game but for Galway, it is a chance to lay down an early-season marker. Joe Canning’s heavily-strapped hand ensures he misses out here. Galway’s attack was sporadic against Tipperary and they will need more consistency. Cunningham has selected a powerful midfield in Iarla Tannian and Joseph Cooney, central figures in the revival against Tipp. Even without the Ballyhale contingent, Cody can assemble a strong team. At least four championship backs are likely to start. A win here is critical to a Galway team who believe they belong among the contenders. They may squeeze it.
Verdict: Galway

Clare v Tipperary, Cusack Park – Storm clouds are slowly gathering over Clare as the splendour of their 2013 All-Ireland win has been replaced by an anxious need to recapture some of that form. Davy Fitzgerald knows there will be nothing easy against a Tipperary side who looked exceptionally confident for 50 minutes against Galway. Clare will wait to ascertain whether or not Tony Kelly is fit to play. Denis Maher was a forceful presence for Tipp against Galway and news of his shoulder dislocation is a blow but competition for front six places is significant in Eamon O’Shea’s squad. Tipp had a settled look about their play in their last home win and if they bring that into Cusack Park, then Clare could find themselves under pressure.
Verdict: Tipperary

Division 1B Wexford v Limerick, Wexford Park, 12.45 pm – Liam Dunne attempts to follow what was an historic away win against Offaly with a crucial promotion win. Conor McDonald, reportedly on-song in training, is named at full forward while Andrew Shore, who had a 48 week ban for playing illegally successfully overturned, is included at left half back. Both Liam Óg McGovern and Eoin Moore are out injured. Adare’s John Fitzgibbon has been given his first competitive start by TJ Ryan in what is an experienced Limerick team. Declan Hannon makes his first start of the year at full forward. Promises to be very tight:
Verdict: Wexford to shade it.

Antrim v Laois, Armoy – Antrim’s eight-point defeat to Limerick disguised how difficult they made life for the visitors for most of that match. Closing out games still proves elusive. Laois travel north still unnerved by that 18-pt drubbing meted out by Waterford.
Verdict: Antrim.

Division 2A Derry v Carlow, Celtic Park, 12.45 – Surprising top of the table tie as Derry edged a narrow away win against London to maintain their winning start. Carlow should bring that to an end here.
Verdict: Carlow.

Wicklow v London, Arklow, 1.0 – A bruising concession of 2-20 against Kerry leaves Wicklow vulnerable.
Verdict: London.

Kerry v Westmeath, Austin Stack, Park, 1.0 – Westmeath will feel they blew it against Derry after losing to a late Declan Foley goal. Kerry are no soft touch at home.
Verdict: Kerry

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