Limerick look to maintain unbeaten run and claim a place in the divisional final in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1B.
By James McMahon
Carlow v Antrim, Dr Cullen Park, 12.45pm
A bottom of the table clash sees Antrim make the long journey to Carlow.
A late Offaly goal denied the latter a famous win last weekend in a match where they battled well, despite being reduced to 14 men after four minutes.
Sean Murphy was the man who went for the early shower after an alteration of sorts with Cathal Parlon.
However, not many in Dr Cullen witnessed what had happened, but the referee, after consulting his linesman decided to issue red.
A routine Offaly win is what would have been in the script thereafter, only for Carlow to produce a rewrite that nearly fashioned the first points of the campaign for John Meyler’s side.
Inspired by a full-back line that played with great purpose, and the accuracy of Shane Kavanagh and Marty Kavanagh, Carlow upped the tempo in the second half and established a four-point lead.
Unfortunately for them they couldn’t seal the deal. In their three games to date, they have lost by an average of three points – giving Limerick and Wexford a few things to think about.
The word from the county is that this is the best prepared Carlow team for a long time and if they can survive in this division it would represent progress
As for Antrim, they are also seeking a first point in this year’s campaign.
Apart from running Limerick close in the opening round, they have been beaten comfortably in their subsequent matches. Bad defending cost them against Dublin, while against Wexford last weekend, they wilted badly in the second half.
They will again look to the likes of Matthew Donnelly in midfield and Neil McManus up front to drive them on against Carlow.
In previous years the Saffrons would expect to see off their Leinster opponents – and one wouldn’t be surprised if they prevailed again on Sunday.
However, if Carlow have recovered from the heartache of Bank Holiday Monday, then they are more than capable of getting a positive return from their efforts.
Offaly v Limerick, O’Connor Park, 2pm
League leaders Limerick, buoyed up after their notable win over Dublin, travel to Tullamore to take on an Offaly side that got out of jail the last day against Carlow.
No doubt, Ollie Baker will be demanding more from the midlanders after what he described was a “dead” performance in Dr Cullen Park.
Joe Bergin got the goal that eventually decided the outcome, with David Kenny’s performance at full-back the only other positive aspect to take from the game.
After defeating the Dubs, Limerick will be keen to cement their place in the divisional final this weekend. John Allen has a forward line that is functioning well, with Declan Hannon, Kevin Downes and Graeme Mulcahy collectively notching a return of 1-16 between them at Croke Park last weekend.
Full-back Richie McCarthy also caught the eye, making some crucial interventions.
Allen opts for changes defensively, with Alan Dempsey starting at No 2, as Stephen Walsh moves to the half-back line.
Tom Condon is the player to make way. Up front, Niall Moran, who replaced Shane Dowling at full-forward, the last day gets the nod to start in Tullamore.
Matches between Offaly and Limerick are never dull affairs. Remember the All-Ireland of ’94?
Offaly will be competitive on their home patch, but Limerick have the greater scoring threat and should utilise it to good effect.
Wexford v Dublin, Wexford Park, 2pm
Dublin’s unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt against Limerick. They now face a battle to claim a divisional final spot and Wexford will prove tricky opponents on their home patch.
While many have welcomed Dublin’s arrival as a hurling force in recent year, a competitive Wexford is also good for the game. A lot of work is been done in the latter county to bring about a revival and so make them genuine challengers for honours again.
A narrow loss to Offaly has been their only blip so far in this campaign and the Yellowbellies enter this weekend’s clash on the back of a comfortable win over Antrim. Paul Morris and Rory Jacob led the scoring charge, but defenders James Tonks and Lee Chin and midfielder David Redmond also stood out as Liam Dunne looks to build a side that has a unity of purpose all over the pitch.
Dublin’s fade out after the dismissal of Paul Ryan last Saturday will be a concern. Coupled with that was the failure to convert three genuine goal chances in the early part of the game.
In truth, Anthony Daly’s side have not really clicked so far this spring in spite of spite of their two wins on the board.
Much focus will therefore be on their efforts in the south east. The Dubs have already beaten Wexford this year in the Walsh Cup final, and are more than capable of a follow-up win.
However, it’s been a while since Wexford have beaten a side above them in the pecking order. A change in the stat would really leave them in fine fettle ahead of a visit to Limerick on the final day.