Weekend Allianz HL Previews
Saturday June 5
Limerick v Cork, LIT Gaelic Grounds, 7.15pm – RTÉ2/Eir Sport
It’s far too early to say that there’s a crisis underway in Limerick, but three games without a win is still a long way from how John Kiely would have imagined his season starting. In recent years, the Treaty men have had a lot of problems in their clashes with Cork, losing in both league and championship clashes in 2019 before scoring a measure of revenge – albeit in a very tight contest – in the 2020 Allianz League.
Seven changes in the starting Limerick team would suggest that patience is wearing thin Shannonside, with debutant Colin Coughlan among the more notable new additions to the team.
Limerick (v Cork):_ Barry Hennessy; Richie English, Sean Finn, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Colin Coughlan; William O’Donoghue, Darragh O’Donovan; Tom Morrissey, Cian Lynch, David Dempsey; Pat Ryan, Aaron Gillane, Peter Casey._
Antrim v Wexford, Corrigan Park, 3pm - TG4
Dublin v Clare, Parnell Park, 5.15pm - Eir Sport
Antrim’s momentum stalled a little bit last time out, but they have a chance to secure another momentous scalp tomorrow afternoon when Wexford make the long trip up the east coast to Belfast. The TG4 cameras will be there in Corrigan Park to see if the Model County can bounce back from a disappointing display against Kilkenny, while Antrim will feel that if they can win here, they will give themselves a great shout of winning three Division One league games in the one year for the first time since 1999 (which was a seven-game season).
Relegation is still not off the table for Clare, who finally got off the mark with a win over Laois last time out. Now they face a Dublin side that is high on confidence themselves, and who hasn’t lost a league game in Parnell Park to Munster opposition since their 1-21 to 1-19 defeat to Limerick in the 2016 Division One quarter-final.
Kerry v Wicklow, Tralee, 4pm
Wicklow are all out of chances to climb out of the relegation trap in Division 2A. Due to head-to-head defeats, they need to take something out of this game at Austin Stack Park, and pick up a result against Offaly next week as well. If they’re to do so, finding a way to generate more scores is critical. The Garden County are the only team in the Allianz League without a goal scored so far, while their average total of 0-14 per game is also the lowest across all 32 counties.
Kerry’s promotion chances are hanging by a thread by now due to scoring difference, but where there’s life, there’s hope, and they can still try to win out their closing two games and look for favours elsewhere.
Sunday June 6
Westmeath v Tipperary, TEG Cusack Park, 2pm – Spórt TG4
Galway v Waterford, Pearse Stadium, 3.45pm - TG4
So far this year Westmeath have struggled to keep pace with Galway, produced an excellent performance in Waterford and then shipped seven goals at Páirc Uí Chaoimh last time out. Tipperary, for their part, have been goal-shy and come away without a green flag in two of their last three starts, but they’re also unbeaten and will start as strong favourites to continue that run when Liam Gordon throws the ball in at TEG Cusack Park.
It’s been a very similar story for Waterford and Galway in this division so far – both have beaten Westmeath and Limerick, but lost their other game without ever really catching fire. An interesting stat from Waterford last time out, they scored 1-14 from play against the All-Ireland champions, including just a solitary point from the full forward line, 1-4 from half forward, one point from midfield and 0-5 from the back division (the remaining three points came from Patrick Curran off the bench). With this in mind, expect a very crowded middled third at Salthill.
Kilkenny v Laois, UPMC Nowlan Park, 1.45pm - TG4
It’s hard to know what’s more remarkable – the incredible scoring exploits of TJ Reid, or the fact that Brian Cody seems to have yet again crafted a very capable Kilkenny side out of relatively unheralded underage players. Laois are getting a little bit closer to full strength every time they’ve togged out this season so in that sense, there is progress there. On the field however, it’s been a tough campaign for them so far and they’ll find it tough to change course at Nowlan Park.
Meath v Carlow, Páirc Tailteann, 2pm
Offaly v Down, Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, 2pm
Neither Meath nor Carlow are mathematically safe from the drop yet, but one of them will be by 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon. Meath will probably feel a little bit happier about their form so far – take away a dismal second quarter against Offaly and for the other 200-odd minutes of action, they’ve hurled quite well. This is the type of game that Carlow might have been widely-fancied to win a year or two ago, but not so much right now.
The main action in the division will be at Tullamore, where Offaly can secure promotion with a game to spare if they account for Down. Complacency is unlikely to be a factor for the Faithful County as their defeat to the Mourne men on penalties in the semi-final of last year’s Christy Ring Cup semi-final is still very fresh in the mind, so if Down are to prevail, they’ll have to do it the hard way.
Meath (v Carlow): Charlie Ennis; Darragh Kelly, Shane Whitty, Seán Geraghty; James Kelly, James Toher, Keith Keoghan; Stephen Morris, David Reilly; Daithí McGowan, Jack Regan, Alan Douglas; Gavin McGowan, Mark O’Sullivan, Patrick Conneely.
Derry v Donegal, Ballinascreen 2pm
Roscommon v Kildare, Dr. Hyde Park, 2pm
Donegal are a depleted side relative to where they were when they lifted the Nickey Rackard Cup last winter, and for the first two games of this league campaign, that showed. All of a sudden they produced a devastating performance to derail Mayo – albeit it was a game where winning or losing didn’t really change much for the Connacht county. Repeat that performance on the far side of the Sperrins, and they could plunge Derry even further into a relegation battle.
Of all the games taking place this week across the six divisions, it’s hard to pick a fixture where an upset seems less likely than the meeting of Kildare and Roscommon. The last time these counties met on Roscommon soil, the home secured a momentous win in the 2019 Christy Ring Cup. Their respective trajectories have gone in opposite directions since then however, and two landslide victories for Kildare over the Rossies in 2020 (albeit both at Kildare venues) would seem to be a fairer reflection of where the counties currently stand.
Louth v Fermanagh, Darver, 2pm
Leitrim v Cavan, Avant Money Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, 2pm
There’s nothing at stake but pride in Carrick-on-Shannon, though since Cavan returned to league competition in 2018, every year they’ve won one game and lost all their others. Ending the year with a record of three points from three matches would represent a milestone of real progress, and they might be the more tuned-in team at Páirc Seán as a result.
The more meaningful action is at Darver however, where Fermanagh have put themselves just 70 minutes away from getting out of the bottom division of the league for the first time since 2015. Louth will be the clear favourites for the winner-takes-all fixture, even though they’ve skated on thin ice so far, winning both their games by the bare minimum.