Saturday, 11 May
Kilkenny v Dublin, Nowlan Park, 7pm
Sunday, 12 May
Galway v Carlow, Pearse Stadium, 3pm
Live blogs on RTÉ.ie and the RTÉ News Now app from 6.45pm on Saturday and from 1.30pm on Sunday
Live updates on Saturday Sport and Sunday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1
Kilkenny v Dublin is live on Sky Sports on Saturday evening, with throw-in at 7pm. Highlights of all the weekend’s action on The Sunday Game on RTÉ2 Television and the RTÉ Player form 9.30pm.
Saturday: Overcast, but dry and with light breezes from the east. High temperature of 11 degrees.
Sunday: Sunny and dry with occasional cloudy spells, moderate breezes from the southeast and maximum temperature of 13 degrees.
Can 'surprise packages' deliver against injury-racked Cats?
Five members of our six-strong expert panel on the hurling championship tipped Dublin to be this season's "surprise packages", an outcome which brought to mind Rob Smyth's old line about Denis Irwin - if everyone is calling you underrated, then it's no longer valid to call you underrated.
After a dismal 2017, Dublin re-grouped well last year under Pat Gilroy and Anthony Cunningham, though they ultimately only succeeded in garnering more plaudits than victories.
They had Kilkenny on the ropes with ten minutes left in Parnell Park but a superb late cameo from substitute Colin Fennelly and an injury-time goal from Liam Blanchfield flipped it back around.
Aside from a limp display in Salthill in Week 3, they were impressive throughout the league campaign. They beat Waterford in a riotously high-scoring encounter in Parnell Park and then turned over Tipperary by a point in the quarter-final in Semple Stadium.
Their clogging of the middle third against Limerick offended the purists but made for a suffocating encounter and they succeeded in unsettling the All-Ireland champions more than most this spring. Manager Mattie Kenny is no stranger to this approach. He was an influential member of the Galway management team in 2012, when they reached an All-Ireland final, having deployed similar-ish tactics en route.
The Dubs have an extremely strong defensive spine with Whitehall Colmcille's Eoghan O'Donnell widely feted at full back while Cuala's Sean Moran - Man of the Match in the 2017-18 All-Ireland club final replay - is a powerful presence either at centre back or as a deep-lying midfielder. Add into the mix Chris Crummey, whose form was sensational in 2018, and Dublin boast a formidable defensive unit.
For the first time under the now abandoned hurling league structure, Kilkenny were "relegated" from Division 1A in the spring. The consequences for this failure aren't exactly the most punitive, though it was ever so.
More worrying for Kilkenny than their indifferent league form is their lengthy injury list. Eoin O'Donnell, Conor Delaney, Joey Holden, James Maher and Cillian Buckley are all out this weekend, while Richie Hogan is also doubtful.
Brian Cody, almost quick to spurn excuses, has been extolling the strength of his panel and Kilkenny will be bolstered by the All-Ireland winning Ballyhale Shamrocks contingent, including 19-year old star attacker Adrian Mullen, who has been pegged as 'one to watch' by all and sundry since St Patrick's Day.
Kilkenny: Darren Brennan; Paul Murphy, Paddy Deegan, Tommy Walsh; Enda Morrissey, Huw Lawlor, Conor Fogarty; Padraig Walsh, Alan Murphy; Adrian Mullen, Walter Walsh, TJ Reid; Billy Ryan, Colin Fennelly, Ger Aylward.
Dublin: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Eoghan O'Donnell, Daire Gray; Chris Crummey, Seán Moran, Shane Barrett; Seán Treacy, Darragh O'Connell; David Treacy, Danny Sutcliffe, Fergal Whitely; Oisín O'Rorke, Liam Rushe, Eamon Dillon.
LAST FIVE CHAMPIONSHIP MEETINGS:
2018: Kilkenny 1-24 Dublin 3-16 (LHC)
2016: Kilkenny 1-25 Dublin 0-15 (LHC SF)
2014: Kilkenny 0-24 Dublin 1-09 (LHC Final)
2013: Dublin 1-16 Kilkenny 0-16 (LHC SF replay)
2013: Dublin 0-17 Kilkenny 1-14 (LHC SF)
Carlow begin Tier 1 adventure with daunting trip
Colm Bonnar's Carlow have leaped numerous hurdles in the past two years. In 2017, they demolished Antrim to win the Christy Ring Cup.
In the spring of 2018, they beat Westmeath in the Division 2 league final to secure promotion to 1B of the Allianz Hurling League. That summer, they soundly dispatched the same opposition to win the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup, breaking into the Leinster championship for 2019.
And then, this spring, they executed a stunning comeback victory over Offaly to retain their Division 1 status for 2020.
Now, they're swimming among the piranhas of tier 1 hurling. Most observers believe they have simply replaced Offaly as the designated 'yo-yo' team for this year but their manager has insisted that "anything can happen".
No one knows this better than Galway, who could only escape from Dr Cullen Park with a draw in Week 2 of the league.
Galway remain unbackable favourites for Sunday, though eventual progression from the province is perhaps less of a foregone conclusion this year.
Pessimism engulfed the county following their league semi-final defeat to Waterford in Nowlan Park, and while the injury suffered by Joe Canning accounted for the bulk of that, the impotent second half display didn't help the mood either.
The pall has lifted since then, with the news that Joseph Cooney and Johnny Glynn were committing to the panel for this season (the latter again pulling a Gerry McInerney and commuting from the States) and Conor Cooney's strong club form providing another boost.
Micheál Donoghue used more than 30 players during the league though it was a long-established player, Cathal Mannion, who shone brightest in his new berth at midfield and is currently running close to the top of the Hurler of the Year betting before a ball has been pucked.
Galway: Colm Callanan; Jack Grealish, Ronan Burke, Aidan Harte; Padraig Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Kevin Hussey; David Burke, Cathal Mannion; Niall Burke, Jason Flynn, Brian Concannon; Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney, Davy Glennon.
Carlow: Brian Tracey; Kevin McDonald, Paul Doyle, Michael Doyle; Eoin Nolan, David English, Richard Coady; Jack Kavanagh, Seán Whelan; John M Nolan, Martin Kavanagh, Edward Byrne; James Doyle, Séamus Murphy, Chris Nolan.
Follow all the hurling action this weekend via our live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport and the News Now app, listen to live national commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 and watch live and exclusive TV coverage of the Munster SHC on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player this Sunday.