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The next five weeks of the National Hurling League are sure to be unpredictable. Given the short lead up to the season, managers are bound to be trying things now ahead of the upcoming Championship campaign.
It’s difficult to know how managers are going to approach the league – will they want to gain momentum to go into the Championship with or will they want to try out new players in their teams? That is the question.
Teams have only been back in camp for three weeks, so you might even find that some counties will just train hard all through the National League and not worry about results.
It’s going to be five games in a six-week period and then you only have two weeks break before the Championship starts, but I can’t wait for it all to get going. But, be surprised to see a few shock results along the way though and I’ve found a double I fancy for you.
Anyone who has read these columns will know I like a bit of value in a bet, but Limerick to win Division 1A of the National Hurling League might be one of the safest bets I tip all year. Limerick must go to Salthill to play Galway in Round 2 and that fixture could tell a lot on how their League campaign will go.
But, they need to get off to a good start and beating old rival Tipperary on Saturday evening will give them just that. If they manage to win that game at home, you would predict that they could kick on and top 1A. Manager John Kiely will want to approach this League season like last year’s one, where they went unbeaten, and he will be going all out to repeat that trick in 2021.
Being All-Ireland champions as well, I don’t believe they will want to give any other county a glimmer of hope going into this season, so I expect them to be leading the way at the end of the National League.
They have the panel of players to just that and they have strength in depth in all positions that should allow them to experiment a bit over the next few weeks, without harming their chances of success.
I really wouldn’t touch Kilkenny to win Division 1B at their current price and I don’t understand how it is that small. They are coming into the season on the back of a defeat to Waterford in the All-Ireland Championship, while Dublin and Galway spurned good chances to beat The Cats in Leinster before that. I just don’t get the reasoning for Brian Cody’s men to be so short in the betting.
The value in this group comes in one of Dublin, Clare or Wexford to win it. I’m going to make what will seem like a surprise shout for some and I’m going to back The Dubs to top this side of the League. If they can beat Kilkenny this weekend it would put them in a fantastic position to do just that.
I’d expect them to beat Antrim and Laois in the following weeks and that would have Mattie Kenny’s men on six points heading into Clare at home in Round 4. If they were to use home advantage fully in that game, that could be enough to secure them the summit and that’s why I feel there is tremendous value in backing them outright.
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