Three time All Star John Mullane casts his eye over a busy weekend of hurling
After a sensational Christy Ring Cup final replay last weekend we’re back into the All-Ireland series this weekend. The Leinster final is on Sunday but before that we’ve four intriguing qualifier ties that could see some contenders drop. Let’s get to it.
My NAP of the weekend is Cork -1 at odds of but I’ve a 6/1 fourfold of Wexford, Cork, Kilkenny and Westmeath +11.
Wexford vs Offaly – 3.30 Saturday in Wexford Park
The Qualifiers start with a tie in the sunny south east on Saturday afternoon. Offaly went down there in the league and managed to turn a six point deficit into a win, so they won’t fear the Yellowbellies.
Wexford are coming off a bad defeat against Dublin in Leinster five weeks ago. By contrast Offaly put up a big fight against Galway. Even still, I fancy Wexford to get the job done at odds of.
Westmeath vs Limerick – 5pm in Mullingar
I can’t get my head around what’s happening with Limerick hurling these days. Their Under 21’s had a cracking win during the week as did their minors but at senior they always seem to flop. Westmeath have put in some fantastic displays in the round robin and Division Two.
I’ve my eye on Westmeath HT/Limerick FT at odds of and for Westmeath to cover the 11 point hanidcap. I don’t think Limerick have enough gas to beat them by more than that.
Clare vs Laois – 7pm in Cusack Park
This one is routine. We didn’t see the real Clare against Waterford and I still think they’re going to have a huge say in the Championship through the back door. There’s a massive 17 point handicap and I reckon Clare just might cover that at odds of.
Cork vs Dublin – 7pm Pairc Ui Rinn
This is the biggest game for Cork hurling since the All Ireland final in 2013. They’re in a seriously low place in both codes but they’ve one thing on their side – their supporters are some of the best in the country and right now Cork need them to pack out Pairc Ui Rinn. The Dubs are flying in the football but haven’t really shown their muscle with hurling yet.
I’m going down to it myself. They met in the league in early March and the Dubs won well in Croker. That was in an open field and lots of space – they won’t get that this Saturday. Pairc Ui Rinn is one of the tightest grounds you will find in the country.
I’m looking to Seamus Harnedy to score the first goal () in a tight Cork win.
Kilkenny vs Galway – 4pm Sunday in Croke Park
Kilkenny are of course the favourites. It’s a re run of last year’s Leinster and All Ireland finals and I think they are in a better place 12 months on. Galway players blamed the management and got rid of Anthony Cunnigham so now they have no excuse if they can’t skin the Cats on Sunday at HQ.
This is the game that Galway have to stand up and make a statement of intent and fire. There is a rumor coming from Noreside that Richie Hogan may be out of this game injured – there’s still questions over his broken hand. If that’s the case then Galway will have to shut down TJ Reid.
Even if they do though, I think Kilkenny will do the job. They were impressive against Dublin and they managed to win comfortably without their big stars like Hogan and Jackie Tyrell.
I’m going for Colin Fennelly to open the goal scoring at and both TJ Reid() and Joe Canning () to score a goal anytime. But in terms of results there’s only one outcome. Hurling is a simple game. It’s 70 minutes long, with 30 players and two teams. And at the end of it all Kilkenny win.
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