Sport Hurling

Monday 20 November 2017

Today's gaelic games previews

Dermot Crowe

Allianz NHL Division 1 Final

(extra-time if necessary)

Cork v Kilkenny

Semple Stadium, 4.0

Most people admire hurling's physicality as much as Brian Cody but two lads thundering into one another is not the fuss. The fuss is deliberate cynical fouling; why should there be an outrage over that? Holding or restraining with the free hand, sly tugs of the shirt -- the sort of fouls which until fairly recently were the preserve of Gaelic football -- are catching on fast.

A player in possession is held illegally and not given the free, this now passes as commonsense refereeing in some quarters. It is a bit like the people who park in the disabled spot and argue that they'll only be away for a minute. It is not a referee's job to offer special exemptions like maverick sheriffs because teams wish to ignore certain rules for their own advantage.

To the game itself: Cork have reached a point where Kilkenny are anticipating a genuine threat to their ascendancy. It has happened relatively quickly with the convergence of Jimmy Barry-Murphy's return and the graduation of some exciting hurlers like Conor Lehane and Darren Sweetnam. In defence, William Egan and Stephen McDonnell have materialised in the same unflashy way that John Gardiner announced himself in 2001.

They have been hurling with a cavalier spirit that makes Cork dangerous although the full extent of their potential in the short term is difficult to estimate.

Kilkenny will seek to drive a hole in their confidence levels even though they are stripped of some of their most able field lieutenants, like Richie Power, Michael Rice, Aidan Fogarty and Henry Shefflin.

Kilkenny will get stronger as players heal and defeat isn't terminal; they bounced back from a heavy league final defeat last year. But they have enough experience and certainly sufficient will to stall the red tide for now.

Verdict: Kilkenny

All-Ireland u21 Football Final

Dublin v Roscommon

Tullamore, 2.0

Save for some choppy moments in the first round against Wexford, it has been plain sailing for Jim Gavin's highly-rated side who enter this match as the warmest of favourites. Lying in wait is a Roscommon team that overcame the Ulster winners, Cavan, two weeks ago. That victory was founded on stellar defending and the same again is a foundation demand if they are to cause an upset.

Dublin are strong all over the field, physically and in terms of their technical ability, but they are at their most compelling beyond midfield. Cork kept some of their attack relatively quiet in the semi-final but they couldn't contain them all and the way in which Dublin were able to carve openings is a warning to Roscommon of the need to stack the defence and work unfathomably hard to make life as uncomfortable as possible. They have some good forwards of their own and Roscommon's appearance in the final is a reflection of an improved standard at underage in the county since the memorable All-Ireland minor triumph in 2006.

Even if success isn't their lot today, there is every reason to believe that a healthy portion of today's cast will soon be an important part of the senior set-up. They need to get most things right today and not miss chances as Cork did, sometimes scandalously, in the first half. Despite their strong favouritism and the inherent perils, some members of the Dublin team won't need any reminding of the sporting uncertainties, having been on a heavily backed minor team defeated in last year's All-Ireland final by Tipperary. Jim Gavin, their manager, saw enough Dublin teams come home empty-handed having left the family convinced they were champions-in-waiting.

The concern is still there that all the warnings may simply not sink home and there is an issue with motivation. But they have so much to recommend them that they may play below their best and still win.

Verdict: Dublin

Connacht SFC Quarter-Final

Sligo v New York

Gaelic Park, 8.0 (Irish time)

Two years ago, New York almost caused a sensation against Galway but mostly this fixture has been an exercise in team-bonding and avoiding injuries for the visiting county. Last year, normal business was restored when Roscommon won emphatically. Sligo head into this on the back of three straight League wins; Roscommon or Galway are looming on June 9.

Verdict: Sligo

Christy Ring CUP SH

Meath v London,

Navan, 1.0

London finished below Meath and outside the promotion play-offs in Division 2B and they look to be set for another disappointment today.

Verdict: Meath

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