Sport Hurling

Saturday 16 December 2017

Today's football and hurling previews

20 April 2014; Tipperary's Patrick Maher strikes the sliotar to score his side's first goal of the game. Allianz Hurling League Division 1 semi-final, Clare v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
20 April 2014; Tipperary's Patrick Maher strikes the sliotar to score his side's first goal of the game. Allianz Hurling League Division 1 semi-final, Clare v Tipperary, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Damian Lawlor

Allianz Hurling League, Division 1 final, Kilkenny v Tipperary, Semple Stadium, 3.30. Kilkenny put their league title on the line in Thurles today but having won nine of their last 10 outings against Tipperary, they will hardly be too fearful.

The home side, despite shipping serious scores, are improving and on something of a run, it must be said. And the law of averages suggests that there must soon be a change in the winning order.

Just as the drive for five beckoned in 2010, Tipperary will relish the chance to block another piece of history for Kilkenny who are bidding to win three successive National Hurling League titles for the first time.

Brendan Maher will act as sweeper, allowing Noel McGrath to drop just past halfway where he seems to be most effective. Patrick Maher has finally found the form he is capable of, Bill O'Meara is a huge addition to the attack, while Seamus Callanan is possibly the best player on view in this year's competition. That gives them hope. Also, Tipperary are starting to find space again, and credit to the undersung James Woodlock for helping them to achieve that.

Kilkenny, meanwhile, look to be rebuilding as they go, with the likes of JJ Farrell, John Power and Pádraig Walsh, among others, all making an impact on this year's league.

Tipp are not long back from a training camp in Dungarvan, while Kilkenny have maintained a serious tempo in their internal games and training sessions. Competition for places is as high as ever but they could be caught today if Tipp are tuned in. And let's be blunt about this – the home team need the win more.

Verdict: Tipperary

 

Connacht SFC quarter-final

New York v Mayo

Gaelic Park, 7.30pm (Irish time)

This is a game Mayo will be glad to have out of the way. The big news is that the highly-regarded Diarmuid O'Connor, younger brother of Cillian, makes his senior championship debut. Watch out for him, the undoubted star of last year's victorious Mayo minor campaign.

Retained, meanwhile, are 11 of the team that lost out to Dublin in last year's All-Ireland senior final. Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett, Alan Dillon and Alan Freeman make way.

Mayo have used the last few weeks to good effect with a positive series of meetings and field sessions focusing on the summer ahead. New York's season, on the other hand, centres on today. They have some decent talent, including captain Brendan Quigley, Donegal's Ross Wherity, Cork's Denis O'Sullivan, while Down duo Gerard McCartan and Keith Quinn are also well-known.

Verdict: Mayo

 

Leinster SHC

Westmeath v Laois

Cusack Park, 3.0

New coach Martin Fogarty took his place in the Westmeath dugout for the first time in last Sunday's defeat to Antrim, and it may not be a coincidence that it was the Lake County's best performance of the year so far.

Kilkenny man Fogarty and his team face a tough test here, however, against the most improved side in hurling. Laois had a bye last weekend but they must hit the ground running now as a loss will be hard to overcome with three more championship games to negotiate in the next three weeks.

Verdict: Laois

 

Carlow v Antrim

Dr Cullen Park, 3pm

Antrim's win over Westmeath was not pretty, but the players at least showed commitment and upped their work rate after a flat opening half. They will be expecting a backlash from Carlow, who only drew with London, which greatly dented their play-off hopes. If they don't get a result today, it would be a severe blow to a side that has worked hard over the past 18 months. While Carlow are fit, they looked nervous last time and had no continuity. Antrim might exploit that, but it will be close.

Verdict: Antrim

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