Tadhg de Búrca's return to action for Waterford has been a huge boost to Liam Cahill and his panel.
Tadhg de Búrca's return to action for Waterford has been a huge boost to Liam Cahill and his panel.

This weekend's Allianz Hurling League previews

Allianz Hurling League Division 1A

Sunday February 27

Galway v Wexford, Pearse Stadium, 1.45pm - TG4 (Deferred)

Offaly v Clare, Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, 2pm

Limerick v Cork, LIT Gaelic Grounds, 3.45pm – TG4

There’s nowhere to start this week except at the LIT Gaelic Grounds, where Cork will travel to take on Limerick in a contest that will be spiced up by Limerick’s failure to pick up a point from either of their two games so far.

When these sides met in the league last year, there was a sense that Limerick were sending out a message in the way that they pounced on an understrength Cork team and won well.

This time around Kieran Kingston is unlikely to go with anything less than 80% of what he considers to be his best team, as they try to reverse last year’s two heavy defeats to the Shannonsiders.

With a rematch just around the corner in the first round of this year’s Munster Hurling Championship, Cork would love nothing more than to deepen the sense of, if not crisis, then concern, in the All-Ireland champions.

There will be a very different mood by the sea in Galway, where the two form teams of the Division meet in what will be a very interesting test of where they stand in advance of the Leinster championship.

Fintan Burke at half-back, Joseph Cooney at midfield and Conor Cooney in the half-forward line were all exceptional for Henry Shefflin’s side in their win against Limerick last week, but Wexford have shown plenty of steely resolve of their own.

After losing their way in their third quarter of last weekend’s game against Clare, Wexford turned around and fired 1-5 without reply to push themselves over the line in Ennis. Darragh Egan has introduced a handful of newcomers very selectively, and wing forward Charlie McGuckin is one of those that has settled in well, but in the main it’s an experienced Wexford side that will travel west.

Finally the contest at Tullamore looks like it will have huge ramifications in the relegation battle, as it’s very hard to see the losing side from Sunday’s game between Offaly and Clare climb off the foot of the table.

Offaly have struggled to acclimatise on their return to the top tier, and while Clare has misfired too, there are proven stars like Tony Kelly, Peter Duggan and Shane O’Donnell all getting closer to a return to fitness.

If the Banner men can’t shake off the challenge of the home side, expect Brian Lohan to call some of those key men into battle at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park.

Allianz Hurling League Division 1B

Saturday, February 26

Tipperary v Dublin, FBD Semple Stadium, 5pm - GAAGo

Sunday February 27

Antrim v Waterford, Corrigan Park, 1pm

Kilkenny v Laois, UPMC Nowlan Park, 2pm

Nothing wins over a Tipperary supporter like watching his team beat Kilkenny, so the mood in the Premier County is much more upbeat this week, even if there is still a sense that there’s a lot of work to be done in the new, post-Pádraic Maher era.

Dublin weren’t exceptional last time out in Belfast but they got the job done, and were a much improved side once Eamon Dillon came off the bench at half time. If Dillon, Danny Sutcliffe and Donal Burke can all find a run of form, they’ll cause the home side plenty of problems tomorrow.

Antrim have another tough home assignment against Waterford, who will be happy to get even more game time into Tadhg de Búrca, following his return to action against Laois last time out.

The Saffrons played well for long spells of their games against Kilkenny and Dublin, with Neil McManus causing huge problems for opponents in his current role of target man on the edge of the square, but Liam Cahill’s side are on a roll and will feel be favoured to move on to five points by Sunday afternoon.

Finally both Kilkenny and Laois will look to bounce back from tough defeats – albeit in very different ways – when they meet at UPMC Nowlan Park.

Cian Kenny showed plenty of potential for the Cats at midfield last time out, while the move to deploy Pádraig Walsh in the half-forward line is working, in the sense that he made a strong contribution with 0-4 from play. However his influence may yet be needed in the back division.

Conceding seven goals last time out, including four in quick succession, meant that Laois were blown away by Waterford, but there is plenty of scoring power in Seamus Plunkett’s side, and they’ll feel that their competitive showing against Tipperary in week one is closer to their true level.

Cormac O'Doherty has been in free scoring form for the Derry hurlers this year.
Cormac O'Doherty has been in free scoring form for the Derry hurlers this year.

Allianz Hurling League Division 2A

Sunday February 27

Carlow v Kerry, Netwatch Cullen Park, 12.30pm

Down v Kildare, Ballycran, 1pm

Meath v Westmeath, Trim, 2pm

After knocking over Westmeath with a very impressive performance last time out, Carlow have a chance to take another massive step towards promotion when they play host to Kerry.

The Kingdom are likely to take this chance to re-introduce a handful of Kilmoyley players, as one more defeat would probably be fatal to their chances of securing promotion up to the top tier.

Carlow are on an upward curve, with a proven forward division, plenty of power in the back and a promising new midfield combination with Conor Kehoe and Fiachra Fitzpatrick.  

Down are the surprise leaders in the Division and they have home advantage for their contest with Kildare, where David Herity will be keen to pick up some momentum after starting with two defeats on the spin. Like Kerry, club commitments hurt the Lily Whites but it will be full steam ahead for Naas men like Brian Byrne, Jack Sheridan, Rian Boran and more up in Ards.

Finally there is a big local derby in Trim, where Westmeath will look to recover from their very poor performance last time out against Carlow. Jack Gillen and Jack Regan have been very impressive from dead balls, but they will need more scoring support from the rest of their attacking colleagues and whichever play gets that will probably end up on the winning side.

Allianz Hurling League Division 2B

Sunday, February 27

Sligo v London, Connacht Centre of Excellence, 12pm

Wicklow v Donegal, Aughrim, 12.30pm

Derry v Mayo, Owenbeg, 1pm

Sligo have hurled much better than their position on the bottom of the table would suggest, but playing well and taking no points will still result in relegation, if they don’t find a way to turn things around against London on Sunday.

The Exiles were in good goalscoring form at home against Mayo last time, and will hope to carry that through to pick up a second consecutive win.

Derry have put two good wins on the board and will be confident of adding a third when Mayo come to Owenbeg, while Donegal have also overcome the loss of a couple of big name players this year to record two wins.

Declan Coulter is back in the side and scoring well, Ritchie Ryan is banging in goals, so they’ll travel to Aughrim in high spirits.

St. Brigid's GAA club in Kiltoom will host Allianz Hurling league action for the first time in 32 years on Sunday.
St. Brigid's GAA club in Kiltoom will host Allianz Hurling league action for the first time in 32 years on Sunday.

Allianz Hurling League Division 3A

Saturday, February 26

Louth v Monaghan, Darver, 2pm

Sunday, February 27

Roscommon v Warwickshire, Kiltoom, 1pm

Tyrone v Armagh, O’Neill’s Healy Park, 2pm

Undoubtedly the big game of the weekend is at O’Neill’s Healy Park, where two promotion contenders go head to head. Armagh are top of the table, courtesy of a big win over Monaghan last time out, but they’ll have it all to do against the home side, who got a huge shot in the arm when Aidy Kelly returned to action, proving his value with two goals last weekend.

Allianz Hurling League comes to St. Brigid’s GAA club in Kiltoom for the first time since 1990, as Roscommon play host to Warwickshire. The Rossies look much improved this year due to the introduction of Eoin Fitzgerald and Conor Cosgrove, not to mention the return to the panel of Daniel Glynn and Padráig Kelly, so it would be a huge surprise if Warwickshire can keep this close.

Louth aren’t out of contention entirely but they will need to finish up with three wins in succession, starting in Darver tomorrow afternoon against Monaghan.

Allianz Hurling League Division 3B

Saturday, February 26

Leitrim v Cavan, Abbotstown, 3pm

Sunday, February 27

Lancashire v Longford, Abbotstown, 1pm

The GAA centre of Excellence in Abbotstown is the venue for both games in Division 3B of the Allianz Hurling League this week, with Division leaders Fermanagh on a bye week.

Leitrim and Cavan has been a closely-fought contest on several occasions in recent years but Leitrim look to be in a better place in 2022, with wing forward Seán Markham and corner forward Joe Murray among the promising introductions to their panel this year.

On Sunday, Lancashire will hope to back up their big win over Cavan when they take on Longford, in a contest that neither side can afford to lose if they hope to secure a place in the league final later in the year.