Weekend Leinster and Munster hurling previews

Kilkenny’s 100% record will be tested by Galway at Nowlan Park on Sunday

SATURDAY

LEINSTER SHC ROUND 4
Wexford v Carlow, Innovate Wexford Park, 7.0

Nothing has gone Carlow's way in this championship. The fixture list was merciless, letting Galway and Kilkenny break their spirit ahead of the more target-friendly Dublin game. Now they go to Wexford who will presumably have murder in mind.

There is plenty for Davy Fitz's charges to improve upon, even though they came out of Salthill with an ultimately creditable draw the last day. They ought to have won both their matches so far so they will be treating this as an exercise in killing a game long before it can get interesting. It's Carlow's bad luck to be the crash test dummies in that scenario.

Verdict: Wexford

MUNSTER SHC ROUND 4
Cork v Waterford, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7.0 (Live Sky Sports)

This has to have been one of the worst weeks in Páraic Fanning's hurling life. For a man steeped in Waterford hurling, he has seen the roughest face of it since last Sunday's capitulation to Limerick and it's hard to imagine from where he or his side can summon anything to trouble Cork here.

They haven't win a championship game since Aussie Gleeson and Jamie Barron pulled the stars from the sky in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final against the same opposition. How long ago that feels now. Cork seem to have righted the ship with the win over Limerick and with Tipp off in the distance, anything less than a victory here would be catastrophic.

Waterford’s morale is on the floor. It’s imperative for Cork that it stays there.

Verdict: Cork

SUNDAY

LEINSTER SHC ROUND 4
Kilkenny v Galway, Nowlan Park, 2.0 (Live RTÉ)

Everything's coming up Milhouse for Kilkenny at the moment. Four points out of four means only they and Tipp in Munster have taken 100 per cent to date and their rivals are taking points off each other. Injuries are easing and they have a home advantage against a Galway side struggling for air after two underwhelming home fixtures.

Adrian Mullen’s graduation to the team and Ger Aylward’s rediscovery of form have helped to stiffen the attack around TJ Reid, who continues to function as the load-bearing beam.

Galway's difficulties in the absence of Joe Canning were predictable but they need to start finding a response. They have the raw material in defence to complicate matters for the home team but continuing to average just 0-20 after two home matches isn't going to win this.

When the teams met in last year’s provincial final, Galway were seen as the market leaders but the slide that cost them their All-Ireland started then, against a less convincing Kilkenny line-up, who they laboured to beat.

Bit of a step change required here.

Last meeting: 8th July, 2018 Leinster final replay, at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Galway 1-28, Kilkenny 3-15.
Just the ticket: Stand: adult - pre-pay €20.00, match day €25.00, juveniles (U16), €5.00; Terrace: pre-pay €15.00, match day €20.00, juveniles (U16), €5.00. Concessions available.
Odds: Kilkenny 4/6, Galway 13/8 and 8/1 the draw.
Verdict: Kilkenny to win.

MUNSTER SHC ROUND 4 Limerick v Clare, LIT Gaelic Grounds, 4.0 (Live RTÉ)
Yikes, this is scary territory for the All-Ireland champions. Starting with one bad day at the office has left them under pressure in each of their succeeding matches. Scheduling has handed Limerick the tricky task of playing teams just after Tipperary have spanked them, potentially prompting backlashes, such as Cork administered. They'll be hoping Clare's reaction will be more along the lines of Waterford, conceiving doubts as to their karma rather than a feistier blowback but this is a must-win due to the sequence of fixtures.

John Kiely will be wary of Clare, though. It's a cheek-by-jowl frontier rivalry and the visitors come calling after a desperately poor home defeat during which they stayed in touch for quarter of an hour before evaporating.

On the plus side, there was evidence that Limerick were reloading their A game in Walsh Park. Some if the dynamic inter-play was a little out of tune and the old failing of making the umpires' arms ache was on show (19 wides) but there were stepped-up performances around the field, especially from Cian Lynch, Kyle Hayes and Gearóid Hegarty.

Clare suffered the reverse. Tony Kelly was bottled up, John Conlon and Shane O'Donnell fairly anonymous and the defence in chaotic tangles. Even if they recover form, can they score enough to keep pace?

Last year this fixture was Limerick’s worst of the summer. That won’t happen again.

Last meeting: 17th June, 2018, Munster round five, at Cusack Park, Clare 0-26, Limerick 0-15.
Just the ticket: pre-pay - Stand €20, Terrace €15 match day - €25, Terrace €20. Juveniles €5.
Odds: Limerick 2/5, Clare 5/2 and 10/1 the draw.
Verdict: Limerick to win.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times