Saturday 16 April

Leinster SHC
Wexford v Galway, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 4.30pm
Westmeath v Kilkenny, TEG Cusack Park, 6pm
Dublin v Laois, Parnell Park, 6.30pm

Sunday 17 April

Munster SHC
Waterford v Tipperary, Walsh Park, 2pm
Cork v Limerick, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 4pm

ONLINE

Live blog on RTÉ Sport Online and RTÉ News Now app

TV

Both Munster games will be live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player, while there's a full highlights package on The Sunday Game (9.30pm). Wexford v Galway is live on Sky Sports Arena.

RADIO

Live commentaries on Saturday Sport and Sunday on RTÉ Radio 1 and in Irish on Raidió na Gaeltachta.

WEATHER

The early championship start means some fairly unchampionship-like weather.

The Leinster counties might just get away with it, with rain spreading east across the afternoon on Saturday, and a promise of 14 degrees.

Heavy showers, with the potential for hail, are due for the Munster participants on Sunday.

Details at Met.ie.

Hurling's Easter resurrection

Mid-April and we've a championship weekend across both provinces to look forward to. It's unusual, and it comes about as a result of the much talked about split season to facilitate a proper calendar for club players.

Whether the GAA should be rushing through its most popular competitions so quickly is sure to be a topic that's touched upon plenty of times over the next six weeks. Three Leinster participants will have played their last game until January by 21 May, and the following day the same will be true for two of the Munster counties.

Seven months is a long time to deprive supporters of top level, inter-county action but we are where we are, as a manager might tell you after a game.

With Covid now far less disruptive, we're back to the round robin series in Leinster and Munster. As a refresher, the top two teams in each will advance to the provincial final, while the county in third place will go into a preliminary quarter final match against a Joe McDonagh finalist; Munster's third placed team plays the winner of the secondary competition, while the third placed Leinster team faces the runner up.

Leinster

It's the eastern province that will open proceedings on Saturday, with the standout fixture being the match at Chadwicks Wexford Park.

If there's to be a winner between Wexford and Galway they will realistically already have one foot in an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final in the second weekend of June at the very minimum.

For Wexford, with Dublin to come the following week, defeat really isn't an option.

The Yellowbellies' championship record against Galway is poor of late, with four defeats and a draw since their last triumph way back in 1996. Of significance are the four most recent results, including three defeats and a draw since 2017.

Wexford's league form was good, until it wasn't; they won five games on the spin, before being well beaten by Waterford in the semi-final.

Wexford got one over on Galway in the league

Rory O'Connor looked unmarkable at various stages in the campaign, while Lee Chin's lack of fitness meant he saw action only in the defeat to the Déise. If he is good to go for Saturday, and can quickly re-find his form, coupled with O'Connor at the top of his game, the Slaneysiders should be a dangerous outfit.

Paudie Foley has been a welcome return to the half-back line this year as Darragh Egan prepares for his first championship game as Wexford manager but the Tipperary native will be without the injured Shane Reck.

It is also a debut championship game in charge for Henry Shefflin in the Galway dugout. The Tribesmen are facing their first year without the talismanic Joe Canning.

The only Connacht side in the Liam MacCarthy race have regularly been touted as front runners for All-Ireland success since they finally ended their barren spell in 2017, but it hasn't quite happened for them since then.

Of course they've gone very close in 2018 and 2020, but defeats to Dublin in 2019 and last season really stand out as setbacks. Galway had a look at 34 players during their spring campaign, with Jason Flynn and Shane Cooney injured for the trip to the south east.


Are Cody's Cats coming or going?


Kilkenny will begin the defence of their title in Westmeath. The Cats are going for a three in a row of provincial titles, which they've achieved three times before under Cody; in 2000 (on their way to six in a row), in 2007 (on their way to seven in a row) and in 2016.

Their league form was solid and they gave as good as they got in the games they lost to Tipperary and Cork.

Westmeath on the other hand are realistically battling to survive in this competition for 2023. Unless something major happens, it'll Laois who they are fighting with for fifth place. The midland neighbours are set to meet on the last weekend of the provincial championships at MW Hire O'Moore Park.

The Lake County come into the game off the back of their swift return to the top flight in the Allianz League after their victory over Down a couple of weeks ago.

Season 24 for Brian Cody with Kilkenny

Championship meetings between the counties have been rare, with just one so far this century back in 2006, which was preceded by four meetings in the 1980s.

The final game on Saturday will see Dublin welcome Laois to Donnycarney. It's three years now since the then Eddie Brennan managed midlanders shocked a side from the capital that had one eye on Tipperary in the quarter-final the following week.

That memory should have removed any likelihood of complacency from Mattie Kenny's camp this week. For the Blues, Dónal Burke impressed from frees in the league, an area that Dublin have struggled in previously.

Danny Sutcliffe would appear to be back to his best, but Kenny will be concerned with the struggles of Eamonn 'trollier' Dillon to stay fit over the last few seasons.


Dónal Óg Cusack: Mattie Kenny under pressure to deliver silverware for Dublin


Laois are set to appear in the round robin for the first time having suffered a big injury blow in the build up to the game, with Laois Today reporting that Stephen 'Picky' Maher is out for the Leinster Championship. Added to that, Willie Dunphy is in a race against time to be fully fit, while Stephen Bergin and Ciaran Comerford have left the panel.

In the league Cheddar Plunkett's side did what they had to do in beating Antrim to stay in the top flight, with Maher telling RTÉ Sport at the time that they had achieved their goal from the start of the year in doing so.

Scoring difference knocked Galway out three years, so we could face some real mis-matches between now and the last week in May as Kilkenny, Galway, Wexford and Dublin attempt to boost their margins.

Munster

Munster is going to be incredibly competitive once again. Limerick are still most people's favourites for the All-Ireland, despite a patchy Allianz League campaign.

Not according to Derek McGrath mind you, as he recently told the RTÉ GAA Podcast that his native Waterford are out ahead of the pack.

"We are the team to beat now, simple as," he said on the episode. No pressure then lads!

Waterford were the form team in the spring

But it sets us up for a tantalising few weeks down south. When the round robin was last used in 2018 and 2019, the Déise managed exactly zero victories from their eight games. But it's fair to say they've come on in leaps and bounds since then.

After their impressive run to a fourth ever Allianz League title, the Suirsiders will be looking to make it back-to-back victories over Tipperary, following on from last year's All-Ireland quarter final.

Colm Bonnar has finally been given the chance with his native county after showing what he can do with Wexford and more recently Carlow. But the Cashel native has been dealt an awful hand when it comes to injuries.

Bubbles O'Dwyer, Brendan and Padraic Maher, Willie Connors, Niall O'Meara and Bryan O’Meara are all unavailable for the summer, while Seamus Callanan, who was always going to miss this clash at Walsh Park, is now looking like a doubt for the whole summer too.

Tipp are the only county other than Limerick to have won the All-Ireland since 2018, so writing them off would be foolish, but Bonnar has a job on his hand to face the Déise, away and with such a depleted squad on his hands.

The other game on Sunday will be a repeat of last year's All-Ireland final but this time at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The crowd was limited to 40,000 that day in Dublin, but it's looking like a sell-out crowd of 45,000 will be in attendance for the battle by the banks of the Lee.

Limerick looked so impressive in that big victory over Cork last summer that it might well be the game that's talked about as them being at their absolute peak in years to come.

Cork didn't enjoy their last championship meeting with Limerick

But of course the bulk of their squad are still very much in their prime, so might they soar higher this summer? Only time will tell, but their league performance told us very little.

"He [John Kiely] has called it," Liam Sheedy told this week's RTÉ GAA Podcast.

"His focus in the league was to get one or two players. Nobody will remember that they did back-to-back leagues but if they do the three [of All-Irelands] in a row it'll be a long time before it's forgotten."

Kiely was said to be monitoring the fitness of Cian Lynch, Aaron Gillane and William O'Donoghue this week, with all three expected to be fit to play. Of more concern were Kyle Hayes and Seamus Flanagan, but the Treaty men have the depth in their panel to cope with most set backs.

A loss like the 16-point mauling Cork suffered in August could destroy players' belief. Kieran Kingston and his troops have been quick to talk about a new year, and putting the loss out of their minds, but we won't know how true all of that is until they get out onto the field.

Asked about where the Rebels are strong this week Gearóid Hegarty said: "They're an extremely fast team and love carrying the ball. That's probably their main strength. They bring so much energy.

"You've to be constantly on edge and concentrating against them because they're so dangerous."

Follow Waterford v Tipperary and Cork v Limerick via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player or listen to national radio commentary on RTÉ Radio 1's Sunday Sport.