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Kilkenny begin bid to retain Leinster crown a week early

KILKENNY will bid to win the Leinster senior hurling title for the 13th time in 14 seasons a week earlier than originally scheduled.

Brian Cody's Cats will play Antrim/ Laois/Wexford on Saturday, June 11, with the second semi-final, featuring Dublin/Offaly v Galway/Carlow/Westmeath, taking place a week later.

It was originally scheduled the other way around, but Galway queried it on the basis that they were due to play Carlow or Westmeath on June 4, leaving the winners with just one week to prepare for the semi-final, whereas Kilkenny would have their first game on June 18.

However, following consultations between the Leinster Council and all the counties involved, it was decided to make the switch.

In another change, the Carlow v Westmeath first-round game has been switched from May 15 to May 22. Both of the semi-final games will be played on Saturday evenings to suit the live TV schedule.

Elsewhere, after extensive experimentation during the FBD League, Mayo manager James Horan has handed out three NFL debuts for Saturday night's clash with Down in Castlebar. Cathal Hallinan, Jason Gibbons and Richie Feeney have all been given the nod.

Leinster SHC (re-arranged schedule)

First round -- May 14: Laois v Antrim, Portlaoise; May 22: Carlow v Westmeath, Dr Cullen Park. Quarter-finals: May 29: Dublin v Offaly, Parnell Park; Antrim/Laois v Wexford, Portlaoise or Wexford Park; June 4: Carlow/Westmeath v Galway, Dr Cullen Park or Mullingar. Semi-finals -- June 11: Kilkenny v Wexford/Antrim/Laois; June 18: Galway/Carlow/Westmeath v Dublin/Offaly (Venues to be decided). Final -- July 3: Croke Park.

Irish Independent