Preview: Allianz Hurling League Week 2
A Munster derby under the Thurles lights among the standout ties22:53 Friday 2 February 2018, 22:53 2 Feb 2018
Saturday 3rd February
Tipperary v Waterford, Semple Stadium @ 7pm
Both management camps have made no secret of the fact that this league campaign requires a different approach given the demands on the panel in the revamped Munster championship. Speaking after last week's loss to Clare, Tipperary manager Michael Ryan talked of the need for a "stronger, bigger base" of players to choose from, as proven by the six changes made to their starting 15.
Ryan's counterpart Derek McGrath is aiming for the same while also being conscious of the demands on the third-level players on Fitzgibbon Cup duty midweek. He took the unique approach of not making a single substitution in their loss to Wexford, admitting afterwards that they selected their team to face the Premier nine days in advance. In the end just four players will have started both ties.
Laois v Galway, O'Moore Park @ 7pm
The reigning League, Leinster and All-Ireland champions were given an almighty scare at home to Antrim last time out. Even with just six starters from the All-Ireland final, Micheal Donoghue's men would have been hoping for a more straight-forward affair.
They travel to a Laois side who never really troubled Limerick in their league opener last weekend. For Eamonn Kelly's side it's all about surviving in 1B for another year, but anything other than a Tribesman win would be a monumental upset.
London v Meath, Ruislip @ 1pm
Sunday 4th February
Kilkenny v Clare, Nowlan Park @ 2pm
The league meetings between these two counties have been strangely one-sided affairs the last few years. Clare were comfortable 2-19 to 0-12 winners at this same stage 12 months previously, and back in 2016 the Banner racked up 4-22 in a 9 point win en route to the league title. But this is a crucial year for Clare, who for the most part have flattered to deceive since 2013. Making it 4 points from 4 against Tipperary and Kilkenny would go a long way to proving they mean business this year.
Kilkenny hurling meanwhile is arguably at its lowest ebb since the 1990s, with their sense of immortality seemingly passing with every game. Last week's loss to Cork wasn't an absolute disaster, but successive losses would make their trip to Waterford in two weeks time an uncomfortable one.
Clare's Shane O'Donnell with Padraig Walsh of Kilkenny ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Wexford v Cork, Innovate Wexford Park @ 2pm
Davy Fitzgerald's troops seem among the most battle-hardened of these early stages. Their first Walsh Cup title in 16 years was followed by a thoroughly deserved win in Waterford where a 7 point victory could have been more. Wexford find themselves in the top-tier a year earlier than most expected, but another 2 points here would go along way to ensure their stint in 1A isn't a short one.
As for Cork it's still hard to tell exactly where they stand. Their loss to Kerry in the Munster Hurling League may have resulted in a few social media sniggers, but their win over Kilkenny last weekend would have given John Meyler plenty of encouragement.
Offaly v Limerick, Bord na Mona O'Connor Park @ 2pm
Here's a line you may not have heard in a good few years - Offaly's performance last weekend was the best in the country. It was meant to be a comfortable start to the Pat Gilroy era in Dublin, but Kevin Martin's men had other ideas. The only thing more impressive than the 2-25 to 1-15 scoreline was the actual performance itself, as the Faithful County hurled with an impressive mix of skill and physicality.
I know it's only January, I know it's only the league, I know Dublin hadn't a full team, I know, I know, I know.....but I still have tears in my eyes. Kevin Martin is a man and his team played like men.— Michael Duignan (@DuignanMichael) January 27, 2018
Suddenly this game against Limerick has become a lot more enticing to the neutrals. The Munster side are desperate to end their seemingly never-ending shift in 1B, but with games against Galway and a hurt Dublin to follow, this could be a very stift test of Limerick's aspirations.
Antrim v Dublin, Corrigan Park @ 2pm
The Dublin management team are smart enough to know that alarm bells shouldn't be immediately ringing just because of one bad result. There's still plenty of quality in this side, and in many ways a trip to Belfast is the best thing for them right now. Antrim in all likelihood won't be hitting the 30 point like Offaly did, but they can still give the Dubs a tough test. Pat Gilroy will be hoping the response from his team will be enough to see them over the line.
Westmeath v Kildare, TEG Cusack Park @ 12.30pm
Kerry v Carlow, Austin Stack Park @ 2pm
Donegal v Derry, Letterykenny @ 12.30pm
Armagh v Mayo, Athletic Grounds @ 2pm
Down v Wicklow, Ballycran @ 2pm
Monaghan v Roscommon, Inniskeen @ 2pm
Louth v Tyrone, Darver @ 2pm
Leitrim v Lancashire, Ballinamore @ 12pm
Cavan v Sligo, Kingspan Breffni Park @ 2pm
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