Brian Cody begins his 21st championship at the helm of Kilkenny without a whole host of his first team. Multiple All-Star Eoin Murphy is missing, as is alst year’s captain Cillian Buckley, James Maher, full-back Conor Delaney and the latest injury woe arrived earlier this week when news emerged that Joey Holden had pulled his hamstring.
After an indifferent league campaign, where Kilkenny only won two of their six outings and lost by nine points to Limerick in round three on home soil at Nowlan Park, surely the Cats are vulnerable for this provincial opener.
In contrast, Dublin will skip into the summer following an encouraging league campaign under Mattie Kenny, most notably that remarkable league quarter-final comeback against Tipperary, and if Eamonn Dillon and Danny Suthcliffe are on song, they can cause a surprise in Nowlan Park.
Racing Post pick: Dublin to win @ 21-10
It should be straightforward for Meath on home soil at Pairc Tailteann on Sunday afternoon as the Royals welcome John Maughan’s Offaly. Only one team beat Meath this spring and that was Ulster champions, Donegal.
Indeed, Declan Bonnar’s charges were fortunate to escape unscathed from the Ballybofey showdown as a late goal was needed to secure a slender success. Meath have a terrific league record on home soil and with Michael Newman and Cillian O’Sullivan leading the attack, Offaly will struggle to keep Meath at bay. James McEntee is a key cog in the Meath machine and his runs from deep will pose problems. A double-figure home success could be in store.
Racing Post pick: Meath -7 @ 10/11
What a way to start the Munster championship and Cork can commence their campaign with a vital victory on home soil at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Cork were every bit as good as Limerick in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final and should have sealed the deal. The hurt of not getting over the line there will surely fuel a ravenous appetite to right the wrongs of 2018 this year.
In Patrick Horgan, Seamus Harnedy and Conor Lehane, the Rebels have arguably the best attacking unit in the business and the move of Tim O’Mahony to centre-back looks a shrewd. This could finally be Cork’s year and they looked great value to begin with a win at Tipperary’s expense.
Racing Post pick: Cork to win @ 10/11
*All odds correct at time of posting but markets are fluid