Top-tier honours in the hurling league are up for grabs as Galway and Tipperary meet at the Gaelic Grounds, while this weekend also saw the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups get under way, writes James McMahon.
SATURDAY 22 APRIL
Christy Ring Cup Round 1
Down 2-24 Roscommon 1-20, Ballycran
Carlow 3-20 Antrim 2-22 AET, Netwatch Cullen Park
Mayo 0-16 Kildare 0-17, Ballina
Nicky Rackard Cup Round 1
Donegal 1-19 Armagh 0-13, Letterkenny
Louth 1-12 Derry 2-17, Dowdallshill
Monaghan 2-11 Tyrone 0-16, Castleblayney
Lory Meagher Cup Round 1
Sligo 4-14 Lancashire 0-17, Markievicz Park
Fermanagh 5-13 Leitrim 2-21, Brewster Park
Cavan 1-14 Warwickshire 3-28, Kingspan Breffni Park
SUNDAY 23 APRIL
Allianz HL Division 1 final
1530 Tipperary v Galway, Gaelic Grounds
Sunday's showdown at the Limerick venue will be the tenth meeting of these counties in a league final and the first since Tipp got the measure of the Tribesemen in 2008. The latter last triumphed in 2010 when they defeated Cork.
With epic All-Ireland semi-finals involving Galway and Tipperary still fresh in our minds, there is the expectation that this league decider will be another cracker.
At the start of the campaign there was a determination within the Tipp camp to add spring success to what was achieved last autumn.
Michael Ryan's side topped Division 1A, winning three of their five games. They drew against Kilkenny, while their only loss came against Cork, but at that stage they had an insurmountable lead at the head of the section.
They then had a facile win Offaly in the quarter-finals, before a four-goal salvo from the McGrath brothers - Noel and John - saw them ease past Wexford in the semi-final.
After that game, former Galway manager Anthony Cunningham said that Tipp's ambition to "go for the jugular" n front of goals is what separates them from the chasing pack.
"They kept playing through the phases, finding their man and having an ambition to go for goals when the opportunity presented itself. They just aren’t happy to take a point or the easy option. They find the man in the best space and go for the jugular."
Tipperary, however, will be without one of their key marksmen Seamus Callanan on Sunday next after he broke his thumb against the Slaneysiders.
Galway were favourites to emerge from Division 1B, but defeat at home to Wexford ultimately put pay to their chances of a swift return to the top flight. They would go on to finish second in the group.
A storming comeback from Micheál Donoghue's charges saw them edge out Waterford at the quarter-final stage.
Last Sunday, they were more than comfortable winners over Limerick to leave the county 70 minutes away from a tenth success in this competition.
Speaking afterwards, Donoghue admitted that getting this far was something was not on their radar.
"The way we looked at it was one game at a time. It's kind of funny that we are in a league final without having talked about it or addressed it.
"The whole aim for the league for us was going as far as we could while getting close to 28 May (against Dublin in Leinster quarter-final).
"Now we have a really competitive game next week [ahead of that]. As I said the performance in the semi-final wouldn't be good enough for either Limerick or Galway so there is a lot of work to do for the week, but look we're absolutely delighted to be there."
HOW THEY REACHED THE FINAL
Tipperary 1-24 Dublin 1-8 (1A)
Tipperary 1-18 Waterford 0-15 (1A)
Tipperary 0-28 Clare 0-21 (1A)
Tipperary 2-17 Kilkenny 3-14 (1A)
Cork 0-26 Tipperary 3-16 (1A)
Tipperary 4-28 Offaly 3-13 (quarter-final)
Tipperary 5-18 Wexford 1-19 (semi-final)
Seamus Callanan: 4-34 (0-22 frees, 0-4 ‘65s’)
John McGrath: 5-21 (0-8 frees)
Noel McGrath: 2-10
Galway 6-23 Offaly 1-12 (1B)
Wexford 1-21 Galway 3-13 (1B)
Galway 3-31 Laois 1-11 (1B)
Galway 1-22 Kerry 0-12 (1B)
Galway 0-24 Limerick 1-18 (1B)
Galway 2-22 Waterford 2-19 (Quarter-final)
Galway 1-21 Limerick 1-11 (Semi-final)
Joe Canning: 3-38 (0-22 frees, 0-2 ‘65s’, 3-0 pens)
Jason Flynn: 2-21 (0-14 frees, 0-2 ‘65s’)
Conor Cooney: 2-16
Leinster SHC round 1
1500 Laois v Westmeath, O'Moore Park
1500 Meath v Kerry, Pairc Tailteann
And so the battle for the Bob O'Keeffe Cup begins.
Three rounds of matches will be played in this round-robin competition. The top two teams will advance to the quarter-finals and a date with either Wexford or Offaly on the last weekend in June.
Christy Ring Cup Round 1
1300 Wicklow v London, Arklow
Live blog on RTÉ.ie and the RTÉ News Now App on the Division 1 hurling final, with score updates on the Leinster hurling championship games from 1500 on Sunday.
Live coverage of Galway v Tipperary from 1500 on TG4. Live streaming on GAAGO.ie
Highlights of the day's action on Allianz League Sunday on RTÉ2 from 2130.
Live commentary of Galway v Tipperary on Sunday Sport from 1400
Dry but cool on Saturday and Sunday, with daytime temperatures dropping back to a 10 to 13 degree range. For more go to met.ie