Hurling previews: Relegation not the end of the world for Waterford
Clare gathering momentum and should have edge over Derek McGrath’s side in Ennis
Davy Fitzgerald and his Wexford charges will not be letting up against Laois on Sunday. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE PREVIEWS
SUNDAY (3.0 unless stated)
DIVISION 1A, ROUND FIVE
Clare v Waterford, Cusack Park – Derek McGrath’s monologue during the week hit on various matters pressing Waterford hurling, including trying to juggle his teaching role with his role as manager. For now the only pressing matter is preserving their Division One status. Relegation, McGrath suggested, wouldn’t be the psychological blow it might have been a few years ago, given the now greater maturity of his team, and there’s a good chance of a new league format next year anyway: still, missing out on a quarter-final would hardly mark progress, especially given the fact they might well have won back-to-back titles last year. Maurice Shanahan lost his appeal against the red card shown in the surprise defeat to Cork the last day, Philip Mahony and Darragh Fives are still injured, and possibly Jamie Baron as well. Clare, with Tony Kelly back on board, are gathering pace and consistency and notoriously difficult to beat in Ennis.
Cork v Tipperary, Páirc Uí Rinn – As the only top-flight team with nothing to play for, their quarter-final place as Division 1A leaders already assured, Tipperary can kick back and hurl with abandon. Cork won’t like the sound of that because they need to win to guarantee their quarter-final, although a draw or even a defeat might still see them through. Michael Ryan was near ecstatic after the “brilliant” experience of their end-to-end draw with Kilkenny the last day, a game Tipp might easily have lost. Reality check or not, they are still the form team of the season, their scoring options only partly reflected in their 4-87 from four games so far. Cork were much improved when beating Waterford, Patrick Horgan now back on board as well to harden their edge. They’ll need all that here, and manager Kieran Kingston is demanding Cork show more consistency, their Munster championship date with Tipp not far down the road adding a little extra desire for both teams.
Dublin v Kilkenny, Parnell Park – It’s just as well Brian Cody takes all criticism lying down, his brilliant response to recent reports of his demise being: “Was that a medical report?” As long as his players keep responding like they did against Tipperary the last day he’ll have nothing to worry about, their emotional energy of that draw generated by the fear of losing perhaps more than the need to win. Still they’ll need to win here to keep alive their chance of making the quarter-final, and Dublin still have an outside chance too, if they win and scores elsewhere swing back in their favour. What is certain though is that either Dublin or Kilkenny will be in the relegation playoff, and that’s really what they’ll be raging against here. Even with most of the Cuala contingent expected to be back on board, Dublin will need to find a more ruthless streak, especially up front, their rallying cry against Cork in round two still their only victory to date.
DIVISION 1B, ROUND FIVE
Wexford v Laois, Innovate Wexford Park – They’ve come this far unbeaten and Wexford aren’t about to blow it, even if already assured of the top spot, promotion, and their quarter-final date against the fourth-placed team in Division 1A. Davy Fitzgerald couldn’t hold back even if he wanted to. They were made work hard for the win over Offaly the last day, but Laois are a different prospect, their confidence taking a further shattering with the 6-33 to 1-19 defeat to Limerick in their last outing. With the now fervent Wexford crowd also against Laois could be face a similar battering here.
Kerry v Offaly, Austin Stack Park – Tied on two points each, there’s everything to play for here, an Offaly win seeing them through the quarter-finals (assuming Wexford beat Laois), and likewise for Kerry. There’s good rivalry here too, Kerry famously beating Offaly in last year’s campaign, although Offaly got some revenge in the Leinster round-robin. Offaly manager Kevin Ryan will have taken encouragement from the result against Wexford the last day, still hunting for the win at the end, Shane Dooley’s missed penalty perhaps costing them a share of the points. The confidence remains with Offaly.
Limerick v Galway, Gaelic Grounds – Limerick manager John Kiely always knew of the underage talent at his disposal, but still looked a little surprised by the emergence of it the last day, debutant midfielder Willie O’Donoghue among those to contribute to the 6-33 tally against Laois. Shane Dowling is also back and looking sharp and a runner-up spot looks well within their grasp. Galway come in equally content after their win over Kerry, where Joe Canning also marked his return, and with both teams assured of a quarter-final spot, this about putting that depth to the test, and Limerick won’t mind that.
SCHOOLS HURLING, SATURDAY
Croke Cup (SH) final
St Kieran’s, Kilkenny v Our Lady’s Templemore, Thurles, 4.0pm – The Kilkenny-Tipperary duopoly rolls down to the next generation with Mikey and Tommy, the children of DJ Carey and Adrian Ronan, lining out for Kieran’s, just as their fathers did in the 1988 final when they defeated Midleton CBS, who included another twice honoured Hurler of the Year, like Carey, Cork’s Brian Corcoran. The famous Kilkenny academy is on the trail of a fourth successive title, a feat they haven’t previously achieved. Last year’s Tipp All-Ireland minor winning captain Brian McGrath – also following in the footsteps of his father Pat who captained Templemore CBS to the 1978 All-Ireland – and his Templemore team are outsiders but have already defeated Kilkenny opposition, beating Kilkenny CBS in the semi-final.