This weekend's inter-county hurling previews
Saturday, July 13
Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Semi-Final**
OFFALY v KILKENNY, O'Connor Park, 2pm
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody cast his net wide for pre-season training, calling in a total of 52 players.
33 of those have gotten a run in the two Walsh Cup matches that the Cats have played to date – wins over Laois and Kildare – and the Kilkenny manager is likely to give a few more a chance to impress on Saturday as he gears his panel up for the League.
Former minor star John Walsh scored 2-6 in last weekend’s win over Kildare, and he might get another chance to impress against Offaly because he’s just the sort of player who could bring some much-needed fizz to the Kilkenny attack in 2018.
Offaly have scored two workmanlike wins over Westmeath thus far in the competition, but will need to up the ante considerably if they’re to pull off a shock here.
Sunday, July 14
Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Semi-Final
DUBLIN v WEXFORD, Parnell Park, 2pm
Dublin manager Pat Gilroy has gone back to the future while building his extended panel this year by recalling a number of high-profile players who weren’t involved in 2017.
Joey Boland has become the latest to join a long list that already included Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe, Johnny McCaffrey, Peter Kelly, Shane Durkin, Alan Nolan, and Daire Plunkett.
Colm Cronin, Mark Schutte, and Paul Schutte who all opted out last year are also expected to return to the fold once their club Cuala’s All-Ireland campaign is over.
Dublin have impressed in both attack and defence thus far in the competition, scoring a combined total of 8-34 in their wins over Meath and Antrim with no goals conceded.
Wexford started their campaign with a facile 39 point win over Wicklow, but found the going a lot tougher the last time out against 14-man Carlow when they had to fight all the way to a 1-20 to 0-18 victory.
Dublin’s form graph has been more impressive then, but with both teams in different divisions of the League, you can be sure Davy Fitzgerald will be keen to take what may be his last chance to lay down a psychological marker ahead of the Leinster Championship.
Co-Op Superstores Munster SHL Final
LIMERICK v CLARE, Gaelic Grounds, 2pm
Limerick captain Declan Hannon has been ruled out of Sunday's Munster Senior Hurling League Final after tearing his hamstring against Kerry last weekend and is also a doubt for the first round of the Allianz Hurling League.
His loss is a negative, but the performance of players like Barry Murphy, Aaron Gillane, Barry Nash, and Darragh O’Donovan has very much been a positive for Limerick at this early stage in the year.
They’ve also blooded players like Paddy O’Loughlin, William O’Meara, and Darragh Fanning, as manager John Kiely strengthens his hand ahead of the Allianz Hurling League.
Limerick looked sharp in their wins over Cork and Kerry, but so too did Clare who beat the same opponents by a combined margin of 16 more points than Limerick did.
Peter Duggan was the star of the show when Clare won the Fenway Hurling Classic back in November, hitting five goals against Tipperary and seven against Galway in the 11-a-side game.
On the strength of those performances he’s been given a run at full-forward and certainly looked the part against Cork last weekend when he banged home two goals.
There’s never much between these teams when they play, but if Duggan gets enough service he can be the difference.
Co-Op Superstores Munster SHL round 3
KERRY v CORK, Austin Stack Park, 2pm
Kerry have suffered two heavy defeats to Limerick and Clare and will be big underdogs against Cork in what’s effectively a dead rubber of a game.
Rebels manager John Meyler is using the match as a chance to experiment with selection, and has made 11 changes to the team that was beaten by Clare last time out with defender Rickard Cahalane, midfielder Luke Meade, and forwards Declan Dalton and Evan Sheehan the only survivors from that game.
Bord na Móna Kehoe Cup round 3
WICKLOW B v LONGFORD, Kilcoole, 2pm
A win for either team here will seal qualification for the Kehoe Cup Final. Both teams have already recorded wins over Louth and there’ll be little between them.
LOUTH v DCU-St PATRICK’S, Darver, 2pm
DCU-St Patrick’s have more to play for than Louth who are already out of the reckoning for a place in the final. That greater motivation could be decisive.