Sunday 1 February 2015

Big four bid to prove summer credentials in semi-final showdowns

Published 19/04/2014 | 02:30

17 April 2014; Pictured at the Allianz Hurling League Semi-Finals preview, left to right, Michael Fennelly, Kilkenny, Jonathan Glynn, Galway, John Conlon, Clare, and Shane McGrath, Tipperary. Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Kilkenny's Michael Fennelly, Galway's Jonathan Glynn, Clare's John Conlon and Shane McGrath of Tipperary met ahead of this weekend's Allianz NHL semi-finals in Limerick. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

The most significant action of the hurling season so far will take place in the Limerick Gaelic Grounds tomorrow when the four favourites for the All-Ireland title contest the Allianz League semi-finals.

With All-Ireland football champions Dublin already through to the Division 1 final and their hurling counterparts Clare attempting to join them, it underlines the growing importance of the leagues in the modern game.

Clare take on Tipperary (4.0) in an attempt to stay on course to win the league title for the first time since 1978, while defending champions Kilkenny face Galway (2.0).

Clare have already beaten Tipperary in the League, winning by seven points in the 1A game in Thurles last month, while Kilkenny beat Galway by three points on the same day.

Clare have the best form of the quartet, having dropped only three points in the group games when losing to Dublin and drawing with Galway. Kilkenny lost to Clare and Dublin; Galway lost to Waterford and Kilkenny, while drawing with Clare.

Tipperary had the most difficult path of all to the knock-out stages, losing to Kilkenny, Clare and Galway before clinching a quarter-final place on the final day with a win over Dublin. They later eliminated Cork.

Wins for Kilkenny and Tipperary would set up a repeat of last year's final. Clare and Kilkenny last met in the final in 2005, while the last Galway-Tipperary decider was in 2008.

Kilkenny have been installed as 6/5 favourites to win the league for the eighth time under Brian Cody, ahead of Clare (5/2), Tipperary (9/2) and Galway (5/1). The final will be played on May 4.

Both semi-finals will be shown live on TG4, as will today's Cadbury All-Ireland U-21 FC semi-finals in Portlaoise.

Cork, runners-up to Galway last year, take on Roscommon (3.0), while Cavan face Dublin (4.45). Dublin last won the title in 2012, Cork in 2009 and Roscommon in 1978, while Cavan have yet to join the roll of honour.

Irish Independent

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