| 15.1°C Dublin

ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE PREVIEWS (2.0 unless stated) Dermot Crowe

Division 1A

Galway v Dublin

Pearse Stadium

Anthony Cunningham's management was set afloat with a promising win in this fixture two years ago, the star man of that day Niall Burke currently on a lengthy injury list. Later Galway banished Dublin to Division 1B in a relegation joust over two days which proved the making of the Tribesmen and precipitated a season of perpetual loss for the Dubs.

Both are prone to swings of fortune. Dublin's trumpeting return last year coincided with a perplexing downward turn in Galway's economy, as if everything had been built on sand. This day can't be expected to come up with answers to all those questions but they would value a win, and a win over Dublin has added value.

Galway have since remodelled the management team, searching for the spark so badly missing after a winter spent stroking their chins. Portumna's travels thieves them of Joe Canning, primarily, while Dublin are able to draw on 11 of those who started the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork. The visitors' attack has a reassuring look to it and the team has a settled appearance the envy of their opponents. Dublin's Walsh Cup run lends valuable match practice and the experimental traditions of the league are honoured with Cuala's Cian O'Callaghan and Simon Timlin included either side of Peter Kelly.

With injuries, Canning absent, and Dublin nearly at full strength, the away team look to have the finer edge and the physicality with it to make a winning start.

Verdict: Dublin

Clare v Kilkenny

Cusack Park

Much talking down of Clare's chances from, well, Clare, even by the conniving traditions of the Gael. There is some foundation to their concern. Kilkenny are up and running and in Brian Cody's time have considered no match beneath their station. This is Kilkenny on a mission to show that they are not to be discarded and will still pack a serious punch when the real business arrives later in the year. Already Henry Shefflin has demonstrated the kind of attitude which became standard through the Cody years with an early-season appearance in Freshford, and winning the Walsh Cup showed a team with new options but very familiar thrust and attacking lines of play.

Fresh and itching to have a crack at the All-Ireland champions, the paragons of this new game, Kilkenny are a good bet to win. Clare, in heavy weather and on ground that doesn't lend itself to nimble feet, can see the symbolism of the challenge and will hardly take it lying down. But the league posturing is already giving the sense that they are making allowances until the season gathers more momentum.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Division 1B

Antrim v Wexford


This has been a trippy-uppy kind of assignment for Wexford in the past and last year's under 21 defeat is another reminder that nothing in the recent past entitled the remotest degree of Wexford smugness in the company of the saffron.

But Wexford, the odd head-stagger apart, do appear to be moving in a sensible and encouraging direction. They'll be counting on winning this to avoid a long, unhappy journey home but it will not be easy.

Verdict: Wexford

Offaly v Laois


Laois come to Tullamore to demonstrate their enviable six-packs and hoping that last year's good results will encourage better this year. Offaly have always been a scourge, even in better Laois times in the 1980s. Under Brian Whelahan they should be keen to make the right kind of show. They aren't unbeatable but they're hardy and this will require hardy.

Verdict: Offaly

Division 2A

Derry v Kerry

Ballinascreen, 1.30

Long day's journey for Kerry. Enough good hurlers to win.

Verdict: Kerry

Kildare v Carlow


Carlow hurling is on something of a high right now. Without Mount Leinster's finest, they can still win this.

Verdict: Carlow

London v Westmeath

Ruislip, 2.30

Should be a profitable journey across the water for the midlanders.

Verdict: Westmeath

Division 2B

Mayo v Fingal

Bekan, 1.0

Fingal have taken a leap from the lower orders and will find the step-up challenging.

Verdict: Mayo

Wicklow v Meath


Meath are coming off the back of Kehoe Cup final win, though Wicklow are not easy pickings

Verdict: Meath

Armagh v Down

Athletic Grounds

Down, defeated in the oft-delayed Ulster final, should have too much.

Verdict: Down

Division 3A

Donegal v Fermanagh


Donegal will be in the hunt for promotion and can win here.

Verdict: Donegal

Monaghan v Longford


Monaghan get a tentative nod.

Verdict: Monaghan

Louth v Roscommon


Roscommon, with the tornado to their backs, to take both points.

Verdict: Roscommon

Sunday Indo Sport