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Hurling: Tom Dempsey on the weekend league action

Updated: Sunday, 09 Mar 2014 10:14 | Comments

Wexford face a test of their credentials when they travel to Limerick
Wexford face a test of their credentials when they travel to Limerick

“All changed, changed utterly”, wrote WB Yeats. We can only wait and see whether that line will sum up the aftermath of this weekend’s games. 

However RTÉ pundit and former Wexford star Tom Dempsey feels that the picture could become a lot clearer in Division 1B with regard to who claims a quarter-final berth.

Offaly and Antrim are currently without points and defeats on Sunday against Cork and Laois could fast-track their involvement in a relegation play-off.

Dempsey, an All-Ireland winner in 1996, is happy with the form shown by his native county so far, though he is wary of what impact injuries will have ahead of their trip to Limerick.

“Wexford are top of the Division on four points. They’ve had two good wins so far. Liam Dunne has given youth its chance, with the likes of Liam Ryan and Conor McDonald making a real impact.

"The signs are good for the future. However in terms of this League campaign, the serious stuff begins with the game against Limerick.

“Injuries and suspensions have hit the side hard. Andrew Shore was ruled out the other day. Conor McDonald is not in the squad for Sunday.

“Wexford will make the last-eight. However the trip to the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday looks like it will be a bridge too far for them. I think Liam Dunne (manager) will be happy with a good performance, so as to keep the positive vibe going.”

Needless to say Dunne has been impressed with Limerick so far.

“They look like they’re in a good place at the moment. They drew with Cork, playing with 14 men and gave Antrim a good trimming the last day.

"Against Wexford, they’ll be determined to improve their scoring average. Topping the section and getting back to the top tier is their sole objective.”

Cork are also targeting that sole promotion spot, but Dempsey questions their form so far.

“Cork haven’t really sparkled yet. They failed to push on against Limerick and would have expected a higher scoring return against Laois. That paucity could cost in the long-term as Limerick are ahead of them in the scoring stakes.”

“They face Offaly at home on Sunday.They’ll collect the two points, but Offaly will put up a fight. History has shown that they don’t fear Cork.

"However, I’m a sure there is a great sense of disappointment for Brian Whelehan and co that they are not more competitive in the Division. The prospect of a play-off to avoid the drop is not what they would have envisaged at the start of the campaign."

Elsewhere, Dempsey is going for Laois to make home advantage count against Antrim.

"Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett has done a brilliant job with Laois, in spite of missing key players like Cahir Healy and Zane Keenan.," said Dempsey.

"A win on Sunday would leave them in a good position to meet one of the big boys in the last eight."

"Croke Park recently announced that counties like Laois are to receive funding to help spread the hurling gospel. It’s well deserved considering the work done by the likes of a true hurling man like ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett."

And so to Division 1A. All six counties have two points after two games.

Kilkenny and Galway locks horns at Nowlan Park and Dempsey is not surprised that yet again the Cats are serious about the spring campaign.

He explained: “I have to say that Kilkenny really impressed me in the way they came back against Tipperary. They have always placed great emphasis on the League and Brian Cody has drafted in some exciting players.

"He’s building a strong panel. I’d say some of the more established names are now wondering whether or not they are going to figure in the weeks and months ahead.

“Matches between Kilkenny and Galway are more often than not spicy affairs. I expect Sunday’s clash to be no different.

"Galway on their day can blow any team away, yet they have a habit of underperforming when least expected. I think Kilkenny will have their number on this occasion.”

Tipperary and Clare meet at Semple Stadium – both looking to get back on track after disappointing defeats the last day.

“I’d say Tipperary will be kicking themselves after the loss to Kilkenny,“ revealed Dempsey.

“It’s the type of loss that can damage morale.

“Clare on the other hand were below-par in going down to Dublin the last day. Davy (Fitzgerald) has to perform a balancing act of sorts. Will a committed run at the League have an impact on their All-Ireland defence later in the summer? Such a twin-track approach never bothered Kilkenny, however.

“I expect Clare to improve on Sunday next, but Tipperary, with home advantage, may just about shade it.”

Elsewhere in the Division, Dempsey expects Waterford and Dublin to be equally close when they face-off at Walsh Park.

“Behind Kilkenny, you would have to say that Waterford have been one of the more consistent teams in the League in recent times.

“If their shooting had been better against Tipperary on the opening night, they’d be top of the Division.  Against Galway the last day, they played with great confidence and will be hoping to make home advantage count against the Dubs, who for their part, will take heart from their win against Clare.

“I have made reference to home advantage. I think it has a part to play in games and I have gone for home wins in all the games, bar Waterford and Dublin, which I think is too tight to call.”

Moving on to Division 2A and Dempsey expects Carlow to continue their push to top the group.

“Carlow will be fancied to beat Derry at home before what looks like the crucial game in the group away to Kerry a week later.

“Down the line the return of the Mount Leinster Rangers players will be a boost in any play-off involving a team from 1B. Carlow will have to earn their spot in the higher tier.” 

FIXTURES

SUNDAY 9 MARCH

Division 1A
Tipperary v Clare, Semple Stadium, 1.15pm
Kilkenny v Galway, Nowlan Park, 2pm
Waterford v Dublin, Walsh Park, 2.30pm

Division 1B
Limerick v Wexford, Gaelic Grounds, 1.15pm
Laois v Antrim, O'Moore Park, 2pm
Cork v Offaly, Páirc Uí Rinn, 3pm

Division 2A 
Westmeath v Kerry, Cusack Park, 12.45pm
London v Kildare, Ruislip, 2pm
Carlow v Derry, Dr Cullen Park, 2.30pm

Division 2B
Wicklow v Armagh, Aughrim, 12.45pm
Down v Mayo, Pairc Esler, 2pm
Meath v Fingal, Trim, 2pm

Division 3A
Monaghan v Louth, Iniskeen, 12pm
Roscommon v Donegal, Athleague, 2pm
Longford v Fermanagh, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 2pm

Division 3B
Sligo v Warwickshire, Markievicz Park, 2pm
Tyrone v Leitrim, Omagh, 2pm

Live coverage and updates of all the day’s action on Sunday Sport from 14:00 on RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide). Television highlights on League Sunday from 19:30 on RTÉ Two and RTE.ie (Ireland only).

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