Weekend hurling previews: Cuala target double; top counties target a semi-final spot

Cuala take on Limerick's Na Piarsaigh while there are some intriguing league quarter-finals

Cuala’s key player Con O’Callaghan. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Cuala’s key player Con O’Callaghan. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

Saturday

AIB All-Ireland SHC club final

Cuala (Dublin) v Na Piarsaigh (Limerick), Croke Park, 3.45
Comparing the multi-faceted Limerick champions’ attack with Cuala’s reliance on Con O’Callaghan’s is reductive and ignores the impressive drill behind the bit: the Dalkey club’s athleticism and hard running through the middle is complemented by the quality of the ball into O’Callaghan.

Na Piarsaigh will probably test their opponents in the air by rotating David Breen in on the square but they have so much quality in attack that a Cuala defence likely to start without Paul Schutte will be stretched. Who gets to play their game?

Verdict: Cuala

Sunday

Allianz Hurling League

Division One quarter-finals

Offaly v Kilkenny, Bórd na Móna O’Connor Park, 1.0
This fixture two years ago was a turkey shoot but the sides have converged a little in the meantime. Kevin Martin has had an encouraging league with Offaly, finishing third and mobilising the whole panel against Antrim, and will hope to ask some questions of Kilkenny.

Brian Cody’s team, however, have also had a good campaign, beating who they needed to beat: Waterford, Tipperary and Wexford. Work rate and focus has been excellent while new players have been trialled.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Wexford v Galway, Innovate Wexford Park, 2.0
Both sides lost last week but Wexford have had a lively, encouraging league culminating in a tough, competitive encounter with Kilkenny with a couple of players rested whereas Galway were out-fought by Limerick to end up becalmed in Division 1B. It’s not certain that the holders are at the same altitude as last year and Joe Canning is just back. If they decide to go for it here, there’ll be a great contest; otherwise, Wexford’s buoyant form will carry the day.

Verdict: Wexford

Dublin v Tipperary, Parnell Park, 3.0
Dublin always seem to be running into Tipperary and it never ends well. Chances are better, however, in Parnell Park than in Croke Park or Thurles. Séamus Callanan isn’t around to fillet the Dubs, as he did in last year’s qualifiers (3-11 - 3-4 from play!) but in his absence Jason Forde has started to return comparable numbers. Pat Gilroy’s team has begun to settle and steered clear of relegation but this looks more likely one to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Verdict: Tipperary

Limerick v Clare, Gaelic Grounds, 4.0
Contrasting momentum, as Limerick come into the quarter-finals with a long yearned-for promotion finally achieved whereas after a strong start Clare have tailed off and lost their last two. Most impressive about John Kiely’s team last week was the ferocity of the second-half rebound against the All-Ireland champions – one point conceded from play and an eight-point deficit overcome. Strangely, it’s all of nine years since Limerick have beaten Clare in the Gaelic Grounds in the league but they can put that right.

Verdict: Limerick

Division 1A relegation play-off

Cork v Waterford, Páirc Uí Rinn, 3.0
After a commendable start to the campaign defeating Kilkenny, Cork have slid off the radar, including in the regulation match against Waterford, who have been picking up form, adding Clare’s scalp to their belt last week. Patrick Curran’s return to form is good news for Waterford and they have the edge here.

Verdict: Waterford

Division 1B relegation play-off

Antrim v Laois, Pearse Park Dunloy, 2.0
Home advantage and the boost of last week’s win in Offaly sets this up nicely for Antrim and Laois will be stretched to replicate their home victory a month ago.

Verdict: Antrim

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