FIXTURES

Saturday 4 February

Division 1 Group A
Wexford v Galway, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 5pm
Cork v Limerick, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7.30pm

Division 1 Group B
Antrim v Kilkenny, Corrigan Park, 2pm
Tipperary v Laois, FBD Semple Stadium, 5pm

Division 2A
Carlow v Kildare, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2pm
Derry v Kerry, Celtic Park, 2pm

Division 2B
Donegal v Sligo, Letterkenny, 2pm
Meath v Wicklow, Pairc Tailteann, 2pm

Division 3A
Louth v Armagh, Protection & Prosperity Louth GAA Training Centre Darver, 1pm
Mayo v Roscommon, Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, 2pm
Monaghan v Fermanagh, Clones, 2pm

Division 3B
Longford v Cavan, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 2pm
Warwickshire v Leitrim, Páirc na hÉireann, 2.30pm

Sunday 5 February

Division 1 Group A
Clare v Westmeath, Ennis, 2pm

Division 1 Group B
Waterford v Dublin, Dungarvin, 2pm

Division 2A
Down v Offaly, McKenna Park, 1pm

ONLINE
Live blogs each day on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app.

RADIO
Live commentaries and updates from around the grounds on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday and Sunday Sport.

TV
On Saturday, RTÉ's cameras will be at Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the meeting of Munster rivals Cork and Limerick.

On the same day TG4 will be showing Wexford and Galway at Chadwicks Wexford Park, while the BBC iPlayer will have coverage of the visit of Kilkenny to Corrigan Park to take on Antrim

Hurling coverage on Sunday will see Waterford's clash with Dublin shown deferred on TG4

These four games will be available live to international viewers on GAAGO.

Highlights and reaction to all the weekend's action on Allianz League Sunday, RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, 9.30pm.

WEATHER

Rain is expected to spread across the whole country on Saturday, with a colder airflow to follow behind on Saturday evening.

Sunday will start with some frost but the afternoon should remain dry in most places.

A detailed forecast is available from met.ie.

After the return of competitive inter-county football last week, it's hurling's turn this weekend.

This competition has seen its importance diminish in recent years, exemplified by Waterford's title last year, and their subsequent failure to make it out of the Munster championship just over seven weeks later.

Further fuel is added to that particular fire by the fact that Limerick have tended not to take the league seriously in the last couple of years, with just three victories across 10 games. Come the end of the year Liam MacCarthy has still wintered by the banks of the Shannon.

Either way, competitive inter-county is back after a long seven months, and supporters will be looking forward to getting to see their teams up close once more.

There's a slight tweak in the format of Division 1 this year with the top two teams in each group now going straight into the league final, as opposed to last year, where there had been a semi-final round as well.

That's the case down through the divisions, with the battle to avoid the drop from the top flight set to be interesting. The bottom side in each of 1A and 1B will face off to maintain their Division 1 status for 2024.

New managers to cut teeth

There will be some new faces in the dugout, and some familiar faces but with different colours on their wooly hats this time around.

The biggest one is undoubtedly Kilkenny. The Leinster champions finally bid adieu to Brian Cody after an incredible time in charge; 24 years, 11 All-Ireland titles, 18 Leinsters and 10 NHL titles.

Derek Lyng, the man who led the Cats Under-20s to an All-Ireland title in 2022, is tasked with filling the considerably sized boots. It all starts with Antrim, who have given a few counties a scare at Corrigan Park over the last few years.

For Cork, Pat Ryan has taken the reins after guiding the Rebels' U20 sides to back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 2020 and 2021. All-Ireland finalists two years ago at senior level, it all fell a bit flat last summer as Galway ended their interest at the quarter-final stage.

Derek Lyng has the unenviable task of following Brian Cody in Kilkenny

The arrival of All-Ireland champions Limerick to town is a nice opener for supporters in Cork and, given how seriously Limerick have taken the league recently, they should feel confident of getting a result to kickstart the Ryan reign.

After much speculation 18 months ago, Liam Cahill is finally preparing for a first match in charge of his native Tipperary. It was hard not to feel for Colm Bonnar - who only got one year with the Premier County - as their championship summer was derailed, at least in part, by serious injuries.

For Cahill, the performances he managed to get out of Waterford for two and a half years over in Waterford give a clear sense of what he will hope to achieve with Tipp, but it's fair to say that there's a sense of a team still in transition, with Laois set to visit Thurles this weekend.

The O'Moore men are another county with a new manager taking over, with Willie Maher's most recent success coming with Dublin club Cuala, who he led to back-to-back county titles in 2019 and 2020.

They're back in the Joe McDonagh Cup later this year, and with it, a platform to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals, something they achieved by shocking Dublin in 2019. Division 1 hurling should provide ideal preparation for a tilt at a second McDonagh Cup title.

Willie Maher has league survival and Joe McDonagh success in his sights

Speaking of the Dubs, Micheál Donoghue is the new man to lead the men from the capital in 2023.

There's something of an uneasy feeling around the boys in blue at the moment. The momentum of a decade ago, when Dublin would be crowned Leinster champions to go with the league title they had claimed two two years previously, is all but gone.

Mattie Kenny's unexpected departure, even if it came after an average season, has been followed by the news that Liam Rushe, Chris Crummey and Cian O'Callaghan are set to go travelling this summer.

Crummey in particular was a real talisman for the Dubs, and it was his goal at Parnell Park back in 2019 that went a long way towards ending Donoghue's time in charge of his home county of Galway.

They failed to get out of Leinster last summer and Donoghue will have a job on his hands to build something new in the capital.

Waterford and Davy: Part II

Perhaps the most interesting of all the appointments is for defending champions Waterford.

It's the return of Davy Fitzgerald, who brought the county to the All-Ireland final in 2008; a first appearance in the showpiece final in 45 years.

The relationship soured slightly after that, and Fitzgerald was gone by the end of the 2011 season. The following year, in charge of his native Clare, he gave an expletive-laden explanation from the sideline of how many All-Ireland medals he had won as he watched his Banner side fall to the Déise.

The outburst was picked up by sideline microphones, and on that night's Sunday Game host Des Cahill would wryly explain that, after requests for RTÉ to investigate the incident, he could confirm that Fitzgerald had indeed won two All-Ireland medals.

Davy Fitzgerald is back in inter-county management

Over a decade later, and after guiding Clare to Liam in 2013, and Wexford to Bob O'Keeffe in 2019, Fitzgerald is back on Suirside.

The round robin hasn't suited the Déise in Munster, something Austin Gleeson was at a loss to explain when he spoke to RTÉ before Christmas.

"No one knows the answer," he said.

"We've won one game, drew one, and lost 10. It's not good enough really. We see ourselves as a good team that can compete, on our day, with every team."

The defence of their league title might be of little consequence to Fitzgerald, even allowing for the fact that he took the competition seriously in his time with Wexford, but he'll be eager to build some depth in his squad to that they can have a proper assault on the Munster championship in April and May.

How seriously will counties take the league this spring

Looking to the other sides in the top divisions, Limerick have made their position towards this competition fairly clear in the last two years. They'll get the results they need to stay in the top flight, but don't expect them to be lifting the trophy come early April.

Wexford are into year two of Darragh Egan's time in charge. 2022 was a peculiar one for the Purple and Gold. After impressing in the early rounds of the league, they were well beaten by neighbours Waterford in the semi-finals at Nowlan Park.

This carried over to championship where a defeat to Dublin, and a draw with Westmeath, looked like it was going to end Wexford's summer early. But they then pulled out something of a surprise - based off 2022 form, rather than their recent record against the Cats - and beat Kilkenny to qualify for the All-Ireland championship.

There, victory over Kerry set up yet another quarter-final against Clare where Egan's charges snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as they failed to convert a late six-point lead into a win.

Galway begin season two under Henry Shefflin in good stead. With Brian Cody gone, and all the talk their relationship created last summer gone with it, Shefflin will have provincial and All-Ireland titles in his sights.

They gave a good account of themselves against Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final, and if there's any sense of the Treaty men coming back to the pack, the Tribesmen are one of the sides nipping at their heels.

For Clare, and Brian Lohan, it was a winter of trying to figure out what went wrong in their listless All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kilkenny last year. The promise shown by bringing Limerick to extra-time in the Munster final disappeared a month later as they failed to show up against the Cats. It will be interesting to see which Banner is raised over the next few weeks.

Leinster teams seeking national glory

In terms of who might win it, could this be a year for Leinster championship side to get the job done?

It's clear that Munster teams have had the upper hand on their east coast counterparts for the last half decade, and more. With more teams competing in Leinster and, as shown by Wexford last year, more scope to drop points but still reach the All-Ireland championship, might one of the managers involved with a Leinster side really take a proper cut off the league?

Kilkenny's last All-Ireland came in 2015 - as the game's most successful county they're in the sort of famine territory that the Kerry footballers were in last year - and a national title could be the perfect way to kickstart the Lyng era.

Wexford, for all the talk of a modern revival, have one Leinster title to their name since 2004, while they've brought the Liam MacCarthy back to the Crescent Quay just once since 1968. Their most recent league title came 50 years ago in 1973, so taking some silverware into the summer could be the perfect fillip for the team that they can face Munster opposition and win.

Wexford won their last league title 50 years ago this spring

In Shefflin's time as a Kilkenny player, the Cats took every competition ultra seriously, and that's the sort of mentality that he'll be instilling in his Galway players now. Taking league and Leinster medals into an All-Ireland semi-final in June could make the Tribesmen a very tricky outfit for anyone coming from a quarter-final.

While it was a league victory back in 2011 that really gave Dublin a seat at the top table in hurling. Donoghue knows that he needs to add a lot of depth to his squad ahead of the Leinster championship, but the confidence of a national trophy wouldn't got amiss either after last year's fourth placed finish in province.

At the other end, on paper at least, it's a battle between Westmeath, Laois and Antrim, but a few other counties could be dragged into it, depending on how the league transpires.

The battle for promotion from Division 2 will be hotly contested. Down lost to Westmeath in the final last year, but all six counties in that division will feel that they can give a top two finish a really good go.

John McGarvey has taken over as the Derry manager while Johnny Kelly is now in the hot seat with Offaly.

In 2B, Seoirse Bulfin - who previously worked under Davy Fitzgerald at various counties, is now in charge of Meath with Casey O'Brien starting his second spell in charge of Wicklow.

Karl McKeegan (Armagh) and duo Tom Philips and Dave McConn (Mayo) are the new managers in 3A, while John Collins, Luke Hands, Padraic Crehan and Steven Ahern have been set the task of leading Warwickshire in 3B.

Watch Cork v Limerick live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player from 7.15pm Saturday and highlights of the weekend's action on Allianz League Sunday, RTÉ2, 9.30pm