Preview: Allianz Hurling League Division 1B
Allianz Hurling League Division 1B
Saturday March 11
Laois v Limerick, O'Moore Park, 7pm, Live on eir Sport
With a lengthy injury list Limerick manager John Kiely has used his panel throughout the opening three rounds of the Allianz Hurling League.
Following a defeat to Wexford Limerick have beaten Kerry and Offaly at the Gaelic Grounds.
Kiely has used 29 players in the compeition so far and Limerick will be hoping to produce another good performance against Laois on Saturday evening.
Eamonn Kelly's charges were outwitted by Galway at Pearse Stadium with the Tribesmen signalling their intent with nine points in the first six minutes of that clash.
Matthew Whelan, Cha Dwyer, and Stephen 'Picky' Maher, three of Laois most important performers, missed that match.
"They are all huge losses, we have a lot of young fellas coming through, we are throwing them in at the deep end in some cases, but I think it is great for their development that they get to play in games like this," Kelly reflected.
"We have a bit of regrouping to do, we are down a few bodies, but the other side of it is I thought the inside backline, the pressure they were under, they were outstanding. There are a few positives that we can take out of it as well."
Ronan Lynch has been in prolific free taking form for Limerick recently so Laois will need to restrict the amount of chances he is afforded.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Cahir Healy, Leigh Bergin, Dwane Palmer; Sean Downey, Paddy Purcell, Ryan Mullaney; Cian Taylor, Ben Conroy; Aaron Dunphy, Cha Dwyer, Patrick Whelan; Willie Dunphy, Neil Foyle, Ross King.
LIMERICK: Barry Hennessy; Stephen Cahill, Richie Engish, Sean Finn; Seamus Hickey, Declan Hannon, Dan Morrissey; Darragh O Donovan, William O Donoghue; Shane Dowling, Gearoid Hegarty, James Ryan; Kevin O Brien, Kyle Hayes, Colin Ryan.
Sunday March 12
Kerry v Galway, Austin Stack Park, 2pm
Galway responded to the Wexford loss by demolishing Laois in Salthill with Cathal Mannion starring on his return to inter-county action.
The Mannion brothers, Padraic and Cathal, had missed the early rounds of the Allianz Hurling League due to Ahascragh-Fohenagh's involvement in the AIB All Ireland Club Intermediate Championship.
Mannion registered 1-5 for Galway in the Laois success with Micheal Donoghue delighted by how his team quickly seized the initiative in that encounter.
"We got a good start, we had the elements as well," Donoghue commented. "A good start is half the battle. The lads racked up a few good scores early on and it gave us a good platform to push on for the rest of the game.
"After the result two weeks ago we were collectively very disappointed with it. In fairness, the lads applied themselves really well in training and brought that to the game."
The Tribesmen will want to be similarly industrious down south, but Kerry were rugged for long stretches, especially in the first half against table toppers Wexford.
Colum Harty and Padraig Boyle continue to impress for Fintan O'Connor's outfit.
KERRY: Martin Stackpoole; James O'Connor, Rory Horgan, Sean Weir; Daniel Collins, Bryan Murphy, Darren Dineen; Jack Goulding, Paudie O'Connor; Shane Nolan, Patrick Kelly, Colum Harty; Jordan Conway, Padraig Boyle, John Buckley.
Offaly v Wexford, O'Connor Park, 2pm
Contrasting starts for these two teams with Offaly failing to earn a point from three matches, while Wexford carry a perfect record into Sunday's Tullamore tussle.
Offaly, with Shane Dooley outstanding, were much improved against Limerick, but the Faithful were still beaten.
Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford endured a demanding first half with Kerry all honest aggression, but the home team pulled clear impressively last week.
That maintained Wexford's unbeaten record and two more wins over Offaly and Laois will secure promotion. Fitzgerald, though, will treat Offaly's challenge with the utmost respect.
Kevin Ryan wants Offaly to 'improve' further following a defiant display at the Gaelic Grounds. "We know the heart is there, we know the fitness is getting there, we know there is a lot more in us than we are getting out of ourselves.
"It is gradually improving, but the thing is just to improve that little bit again next week."
Jack Guiney's return for Wexford was one of the main talking points following the Kerry triumph, another slice of good news in the south east where momentum is certainly being generated.
Lee Chin is adamant Wexford are moving in the right direction. "We're happy that we're in the position that we're in, and I suppose a lot of it is in our own hands. If we can get the win at the weekend I think it's pretty much a done deal that we've gained promotion.
"It's still a long way away. And then we still have to play Laois in the last game. And then you're looking forward to the quarter-finals, but beating the likes of Galway and Limerick, I suppose Galway would be one of the top three teams in the country at the moment.
"Beating the calibre of those teams you're thinking, you know, we could possibly do well here in the National League going into a quarter-final and hopefully we can keep believing and we'll have momentum to bring us on through those stages as well."
Wexford are developing nicely under Davy Fitzgerald which pleases Chin. "I believe we're in a development process of trying to do something amongst ourselves and trying to create some sort of a team here, a winning team.
"Obviously unless we keep winning we're not going to be too excited come the summer. If we can keep winning, yeah, then further down the line I suppose I'll get more excited coming towards the summer."