Weekend hurling previews: Throw-in times, TV details, team news

Seán Moran looks at the opening round of the Allianz League and Croke Park club finals

Saturday

DIVISION 1A
Cork v Clare, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 5.0

Two teams who will be relying on their panels in the first few weeks of the season with injuries and general third-level commitments. Cork have more than 20 players involved in Fitzgibbon and other competitions, a speed bump when younger players are needed to reinforce the panel after retirements but a good club campaign reignites Conor Lehane's intercounty career in what is a strong selection. Clare were short a lot of players, even before the retirement of Colm Galvin and including critical absences like Tony Kelly, Aidan McCarthy and Peter Duggan. They have the advantage of having reached the final of the Munster Cup while Cork sat it out. Verdict: Cork

DIVISION 1B
Laois v Tipperary, MW Hire O'Moore Park, 6.0

It's been a rough time for Tipperary with Pádraic Maher's unexpected retirement and the demoralising experience of losing to Kerry in the Munster Cup. They head for Portlaoise needing to get their season up and running with a view to providing Colm Bonnar with a clear championship panel. Laois are hoping to add a bit of consistency to their performances in the division. They have a few injuries but the Clough Ballacolla players have recommitted after their historic run in Leinster. They finished last year well and will give this a rattle. Verdict: Tipperary

DIVISION 2B
Derry v Sligo, Celtic Park, 2.0

DIVISION 3A
Armagh v Louth, Athletic Grounds, 2.30

DIVISION 3B
Fermanagh v Cavan, Brewster Park, 2.30

ALL-IRELAND CLUB FINALS
JHC: Ballygiblin (Cork) v Mooncoin (Kilkenny), Croke Park, 3.0 – TG4 YouTube

Mooncoin are favourites to keep the title in Kilkenny but Ballygiblin have some good players, including former Tipp underage medallist Colin English. Verdict: Mooncoin

IHC: Kilmoyley (Kerry) v Naas (Kildare), Croke Park, 5.0 – TG4 YouTube
Two clubs with contrasting backgrounds. Naas is the largest town in Kildare with nearly 20,000 people whereas Kilmoyley has barely 1,000. They have battled all the way here but this might be a bridge too far. Verdict: Naas

Sunday

DIVISION 1A
Wexford v Limerick, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 1.45 – Live TG4

Imitation is flattery and Wexford have set out to emulate the All-Ireland champions' attention to development detail and backroom influence by assembling local expertise, Billy Walsh and Gordon D'Arcy, in elite performance coaching. New manager Darragh Egan is still considering his playing options and had a bruising encounter with Dublin last week as part of the learning process. Paudie Foley is back after his year out and things are progressing with younger players, including Foley's younger brother Oisín. Limerick relentlessly pocketed the Munster Cup and gave game time to some of their emerging talent – even if signs are that a team with 12 All Stars won't be easy to break into – while still maintaining performance levels to put them in a good position at the start of this campaign. Verdict: Limerick

Galway v Offaly, Pearse Stadium, 2.0
Henry Shefflin has dominated the Galway hurling talk – even to the exclusion of the incalculable loss of Joe Canning – but there are concerned exchanges about the onward march of the team's age profile and how ready the rising generation is to step into the breach. Daithí Burke is the new captain but will he revert to full back? Offaly were competitive when this fixture took place in the Walsh Cup a couple of weeks ago but they have found the Division One teams hard going, physically. Verdict: Galway

DIVISION 1B
Kilkenny v Antrim, UPMC Nowlan Park, 1.0

Antrim gave a good account of themselves in this fixture last year as well as in the league generally. Kilkenny won't be at full strength with Ballyhale awaiting further All-Ireland engagement and this year Brian Cody has drawn up a big panel after conducting trials before Christmas. This campaign will be instructive to see if young talent like Cian Kenny can stake a claim. Antrim have a young team in development and are focused on staying in the division and generating enough momentum to get back to the MacCarthy Cup. Verdict: Kilkenny

Dublin v Waterford, Parnell Park, 3.45 – Live TG4
A quiet pre-season for Waterford with Ballygunner commandeering all the attention. That run also costs the county a number of players. Liam Cahill's improvised team have a tricky start to their campaign anyway, as many have been impressed by Dublin's form in early exchanges, including last week's demolition of Wexford in the Walsh Cup final. Mattie Kenny appears to have identified the matchday panel he wants and they have looked comfortable moving the ball and scoring returns of 2-27. Championship is a while off yet mind you, still less than three months, and Dublin will want to be motoring. Waterford were slow starters last year and Parnell Park is a tough place to visit. Verdict: Dublin

DIVISION 2A
Westmeath v Kerry, TEG Cusack Park, 12.30; Down v Carlow, Ballycran, 1.0; Kildare v Meath, Newbridge, 2.0.

DIVISION 2B
Donegal v London, Letterkenny, 12.0; Mayo v Wicklow, Ballina Stephenites, 2.0.

DIVISION 3A
Warwickshire v Monaghan, Páirc na hÉireann, 1.0; Roscommon v Tyrone, Dr Hyde Park, 2.0.

AHL DIVISION 3B
Lancashire v Leitrim, Abbotstown, 1.0

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