Alllianz Hurling League Weekend previews
Allianz Hurling Leagues: Previews
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald: his team will be looking for a first league win of the season when they host Dublin. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Division 1A Clare v Dublin (Cusack Park, 3pm)
nWell, it’s not as if there is any other sporting fixture of interest on at this time. Not for the first time, the GAA has blithely scheduled a league fixture in direct opposition with a Six Nations Championship game featuring Ireland. It won’t keep the Clare hardcore away. Rumours that Colm Galvin is set to miss the championship summer remain unconfirmed but it has been a testing few weeks for Davy Fitzgerald. The ferocious response against Tipperary last week didn’t quite materialise. Conor Ryan’s contribution of 0-5 was eye-catching but the Banner will want further productivity up front as they attempt to overcome a Dublin team picked apart by Cork a week ago. Relegation is one thing: a winless league is another. Clare to register their first points here.
Division 1B Limerick v Offaly (Gaelic Grounds, 7pm)
nDeclan Hannon reverts from centre forward to centre back as TJ Ryan’s team seek to maintain their promotion push. Wayne McNamara has been troubled with a leg injury and makes way along with David Reidy. Cian Lynch and Seanie Tobin, who made strong contributions off the bench to Limerick’s thrilling win against Wexford, come in. Offaly at least enjoyed a brilliant start last week against Waterford and led by Shane Dooley will hope to build on that here. But Limerick should confirm their promotion ambitions with a win.
Division 1A Tipperary v Kilkenny (Thurles, 2pm On TV: TG4 deferred)
nBrian Cody hasn’t quite written off a fourth league title in succession but this is a pivotal match. Kilkenny’s defence was typically full-hearted and organised last week against Galway and there was rarely a hint of a Tribesmen goal. Still, they lost the match and now face a Tipp team travelling well and undoubtedly keen to register a win over the black and amber. Richie Hogan was heroic against Galway; if he has recovered from a hamstring strain, Kilkenny have their conductor up front. But even with Hogan, they may struggle to match Tipperary’s attacking depth and the frequency with which they are creating goal chances.
Galway v Cork (Pearse Stadium, 2.30pm)
nJimmy Barry Murphy’s team caught the eye in Dublin with their fluency and scoring rate but it was a bizarrely open game and they can expect conditions to be tougher in Salthill. The pitch there is still scarred with deep ridges from a drainage job which made life difficult for the hurlers last week. Joe Canning has resumed normal service for Galway. It remains to be seen whether Anthony Cunningham will leave Jason Flynn on free-taking duties. His striking last week was exceptional. Galway are big, physical and fast and up for the hard work. Cork have made five changes to last week’s side, with Luke O’Farrell among three forwards making way. Stephen McDonnell will start at full back in place of Christopher Joyce, whose confirmed cruciate ligament injury took the gloss off that handsome win over Dublin. Galway to make use of home advantage.
Division 1B Waterford v Antrim (Walsh Park, 12.45pm)
nAfter scoring a vital goal against Offaly last week, Shane Bennett has stepped down from the Waterford panel in order to concentrate on his Leaving Cert. The composure Waterford displayed in recovering from a 0-7 to 0-0 opening blitz was impressive. Chris O’Connell, Thomas McCann and Shane McNaughton come into the Antrim team for this long trip south. Antrim haven’t quite clicked in this league and are unlikely to get a break here.
Laois v Wexford (O’Moore Park, 2pm)nWexford came out the wrong side of a seven goal shoot-out against Limerick last week, coughing up 1-1 and the win in injury time. Niall Breen comes into goal and Andrew Shore and Conor McDonald also start for Wexford. Cheddar Plunkett’s Laois side badly needed their four-point win against Antrim a week ago but will struggle to contain Liam Dunne’s side, who will be quietly furious with themselves after last week’s crucial promotion slip-up.
Carlow v Kerry (Cullen Park, 12pm)
Pat English’s side should confirm their status as form leaders with a convincing win over a Kerry team who went down heavily to Westmeath a week ago.
Westmeath v Wicklow (Cusack Park, 12.45pm)
Wicklow targeted a win against London and didn’t get it: they are likely to endure more hardship when they visit a Westmeath team which showed improving form against Kerry.