Weekend hurling previews: Clare aiming to bounce back against Wexford

Tipperary and Kilkenny both in need of a positive result in Thurles showdown

 Aaron Gillane is on Fitzgibbon Cup duty with Mary Immaculate College against UCC and will be rested for Limerick’s game against Cork on Sunday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Aaron Gillane is on Fitzgibbon Cup duty with Mary Immaculate College against UCC and will be rested for Limerick’s game against Cork on Sunday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Saturday

Fitzgibbon Cup Final

UCC v Mary Immaculate College, Waterford IT, 2.45,  TG4
The Limerick scholars are bidding for their third title in four seasons. These colleges last met in the final in 2013, with UCC the winner then. This year’s teachers-in-training are a stacked bunch though. Limerick’s Aaron Gillane posted a magisterial 1-12 – from play, sideline, frees and penalty – in the semi-final win. Cork required a dramatic injury-time penalty by Chris O’Leary to seal their place at the expense of DCU and with established senior intercounty players like Shane Kingston and John Power, they will look to make that stroke of fortune count. Verdict: UCC

Sunday

Allianz Hurling League - Division 1A (2.0 unless stated)

Clare v Wexford Cusack Park, TG4 deferred
Davy Fitzgerald in his old stomping ground in Ennis is always an event. The last man to bring the MacCarthy Cup to Clare has predicated a ‘backlash’ facing his Wexford team on Sunday. Clare’s defeat against Cork advertised the best and worst of their game. Their attack fizzed with speed and invention but, despite hitting a very respectable 16 points from play, they spurned other chances and their defence just coughed up an unforgivable 15 frees. Address those wrongs and Clare should be in business here despite Wexford’s characteristic resilience. Verdict: Clare

Tipperary v Kilkenny Semple Stadium, Live TG4
The old order have been given a clear insight as to the present power base when All-Ireland champions Limerick posted handsome victories against both. Both Liam Sheedy and Brian Cody are building towards a summer challenge but won’t want to yield an inch here. The nine-point loss to Limerick in Nowlan Park was startling; more worrying was that Kilkenny managed 0-6 from play to Limerick’s 2-12. It will be different when Kilkenny have a full selection but Tipp’s firepower should see them through this. Verdict: Tipperary

Limerick v Cork, Gaelic Grounds, 2.30, TG4 deferred
For Limerick, the championship can’t come fast enough. They are purring right now and hurling for fun and the sense that everything is going perfectly may have provoked the recent caveats from former Kilkenny defender Jackie Tyrrell. The season is young. Cork are heavily reliant on Pat Horgan from placed balls and open play and they can’t expect Limerick to offer them as many opportunities from frees as Clare did. John Kiely will rest Aaron Gillane, their exuberant sharp shooter who is in action in Saturday’s Fitzgibbon Cup. Someone will interrupt Limerick’s dreamlike spring but not perhaps not here. Verdict: Limerick

Division 1B

Offaly v Galway, O Connor Park, 1.0
Galway are thriving in the relative obscurity of this division, quietly reconfiguring for another shot at the summit. Micheál Donohue is running the rule over the younger squad members like Sean Bleahene while enjoying handsome returns from playing the versatile Pádraic Mannion midfield. The lack of goals this year is a minor concern: they hit Offaly for six in the corresponding fixture a year ago and may seek to inflict more punishment here: Offaly have leaked seven goals in their first three league games. Verdict: Galway

Carlow v Laois, Cullen Park
This is a four-pointer for both teams. Laois impressed in a blistering first-half display against struggling Offaly while Carlow’s loss to Waterford should be tempered by the five changes that Colm Bonnar made to the side that achieved a famous draw with Galway. Carlow are likely to be without Martin Kavanagh, who landed the equalising point that afternoon before suffering a hamstring injury the next week. An evenly balanced fixture, Laois’s scoring form may swing it for them. Verdict: Laois

Dublin v Waterford, Parnell Park
Mattie Kenny looked to identify the positives in defeat against Galway; the stickiness of their full back line, an opportunist goal and the steadying influence of Liam Rushe when introduced was the best of it. But that game never felt like a true contest. Dublin will need to be sharper if they are to stay in touch with the division’s leaders. With Jamie Barron fully recovered from a hamstring injury and Austin Gleeson also back in the first 15, Waterford look set to get stronger and will identify this game as a must-win. Verdict: Waterford

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