TODAY'S NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE GAMES
(2.30 unless stated)
Tipperary v Galway, Thurles: Tipperary's winning performance in Kilkenny hinged on two factors: an obstructionist defence and the goal-sniffing savant Eoin Kelly. His green flag before half-time provided critical breathing space, although the home side created enough scoring chances to win. Tipperary defended majestically thereafter, managing to survive despite another inauspicious day for their half-forwards.
Galway can expect great resistance, then, but they're in cocky form. Another plus for John McIntyre was the return of David Collins, who had his first start in two and a half years.
Seamus Hennessy, named on the 40, is one of four Tipp changes. Hennessy starred for NUIG at centre-back and as an inter-county half-forward he remains a work in progress. Timmy Hammersley, another shining light in Fitzgibbon, deservedly joins the panel and Michael Cahill is Shane McGrath's latest midfield ally. Finally, the defence, good as it is, will look to improve the quality of ball upfield. Nobody's perfect.
Cork v Kilkenny, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, (TG4): Readers of Donal óg Cusack's book are transported back to this fixture last season when Kilkenny routed the Rebels by 27 points at Nowlan Park, cheered on by the vampirish locals crazy for blood. This time Cusack will be spared the same humiliation and club-tied Henry Shefflin won't be around for a handshake at the final whistle.
Cork have beaten Offaly and Limerick, and while they meet Kilkenny minus the Ballyhale players, Brian Cody's commandos are dangerous on the rebound. Losing to Tipp and Cork in the one week is not something Kilkenny will regard as beneficial to the mood and manner of all who swear allegiance. Two hard-driven teams should provide a riveting contest, with Cork having most of the questions to answer.
Offaly v Dublin, Tullamore: Offaly will have identified this as a vital opportunity to gain altitude, though their enthusiasm may have been dulled a little after Dublin's empathic win over Tipp. Tarred and feathered after their dismal opening in Waterford, Dublin responded vigorously; but can they do it when expected? There's the rub.
Waterford v Limerick, Dungarvan: Limerick won this encounter last season but much has changed in the meantime, as we all know. They continue their phantom tour, gallant but doomed.
Clare v Wexford, Cusack Park: The big clash in this division, with Clare grateful to have home call. Likely to reunite farther down the line. Verdict: Clare
Down v Carlow, Ballygalget: Carlow severely punished Westmeath and were unlucky to leave the north empty-handed last month, pipped in Belfast. It needn't happen twice. Verdict: Carlow
Antrim v Laois, Casement Park: Niall Rigney lamented the loss to Clare two weeks ago and knows his team needs to win to stay in promotion contention. Antrim are hard beaten hosts but Laois have a decent chance. Verdict: Laois
Kerry v Meath, Tralee: Kerry have shown the most even consistency and will be fancied, even if Meath are sturdy opponents and arrive anxious not to drop any more points. Verdict: Kerry
Armagh v London, Crossmaglen, 12.45: Armagh carved out a well deserved draw at Meath, serving notice of their improvement, and erratic shooting cost them at home to Mayo. Meanwhile, London bombed against Derry a fortnight ago -- losing by an astonishing 23 points. Verdict: Armagh
Mayo v Derry, Castlebar: Having opened with a resounding defeat to Kerry at Celtic Park, Derry responded by destroying London. This will be a keener contest -- draw material. Mayo are hardy but Derry can pinch the win.
Wicklow v Sligo, Arklow: Good win over Fingal sets up Wicklow for what should be another victory. Verdict: Wicklow
Fingal v Donegal, Swords: Crucial game for the hosts if they are to remain in contention after a bad start. Home advantage helps and vice versa. Verdict: Fingal
Louth v Roscommon, Dowdallshill: Roscommon put eight goals past Tyrone. Not as many today but enough. Verdict: Roscommon
Fermanagh v Cavan, Maguiresbridge, 12.45: Cavan have greater scoring power. Verdict: Cavan
Leitrim v South Down, Carrick-on-Shannon: Chance for the visitors to atone for last-round defeat.
Verdict: South Down
Monaghan v Longford, Inniskeen: Monaghan and Longford are unbeaten; the home side should stay that way. Verdict: Monaghan