Preview: This weekend’s provincial hurling championship matches

Great rivals Limerick and Clare meet in Round 2 of the Munster SHC on Saturday:

Saturday 29th April

Munster SHC round 2
Limerick v Clare, TUS Gaelic Grounds, 7pm (GAAGO)

These teams produced two epic matches in Munster last year and some salt has been added to the pot for this game by the fact they both have something to prove.

Limerick won their first match of the championship last weekend against Waterford, but much of the post-match discussion focused on how it was a less comfortable win than might have been expected.

Had Waterford been more clinical in the second-half they may well have pulled off what would have been a huge upset.

Limerick did show a lot of grit though to hold on for the win despite losing captain Declan Hannon to injury and Gearoid Hegarty to a red card.

Hannon is named to play in this match, but Hegarty drops to the bench and is replaced by Cathal O’Neill in the only change to the Limerick team.

As for Clare, they’ll be smarting after their defeat to Tipperary last weekend when they conceded five goals, two of which were of the very soft variety. Eibhear Quilligan replaces Eamonn Foudy in goals in response.

If their defending is just as loose against Limerick they’ll be punished severely again, but optimism can be gained from the fact they scored 3-23 against Tipp even though players like Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell, and Peter Duggan were quiet by their usual high standards.

If all of Clare’s offensive players click on a particular day they’re capable of doing serious damage, but the big question mark is whether they can shore things up a the back.

Limerick won comfortably when the teams met in the League, and with home advantage will be warm favourites to repeat the trick here.

LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid; Sean Finn, Dan Morrissey, Barry Nash; Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon, Kyle Hayes; Darragh O’Donovan, William O’Donoghue; Cathal O’Neill, Cian Lynch, Tom Morrissey; Aaron Gillane, Seamus Flanagan, Peter Casey. Subs: Jamie Power, Conor Boylan, Mike Casey, Ronan Connolly, Colin Coughlan, Richie English, Gearóid Hegarty, Graeme Mulcahy, Barry Murphy, Donnacha Ó Dálaigh, David Reidy.

CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan; Adam Hogan, Conor Lleary, Paul Flanagan, Diarmuid Ryan, John Conlon, David McInerney; David Fitzgerald, Cathal Malone; Peter Duggan, Tony Kelly, Aidan McCarthy; Ian Galvin, Shane O’Donnell, Mark Rodgers. Subs: Eamonn Foudy, Cian Nolan, Ryan Taylor, Shane Meehan, Aron Shanagher, Aaron Fitzgerald, Robin Mounsey, Rory Hayes, Cian Galvin, Jack Kirwan, Seadna Morey.

Leinster SHC round 2
Wexford v Antrim, Chadwicks Wexford Park, 6pm

This is a huge match for both teams that could well define which of them remains in the running for a place in the top three in Leinster and progression to the All-Ireland series.

Wexford had a very poor league campaign and their opening round defeat to Galway last weekend suggested they’re still some way shy of hurling to their full potential.

They scored two goals in the first four minutes of that match but were outhurled thereafter and eventually fell to a six-point defeat.

The absence of the injured Lee Chin is being keenly felt, and the sooner they can get him back on the pitch to give them some forward thrust the better.

Antrim will view this match as one of the most significant in their recent history. They really should have beaten Dublin last weekend, but the draw they had to settle for in the end was surely an encouraging rather than deflating one.

They’re a very settled team by now under manager Darren Gleeson where every player knows his role and are hurling with a lot of confidence, unlike Wexford.

The Slaneysiders might be the better team on paper, but this game is likely to be a very close one and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if Antrim came away from Chadwicks Wexford Park with a result.

WEXFORD: James Lawlor; Shane Reck, Liam Ryan, Conor Devitt; Matthew O’Hanlon, Conor Foley, Simon Donohoe; Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Conor Hearne; Oisin Foley, Jack O’Connor, Liam Óg McGovern; Rory O’Connor, Conor McDonald, Cathal Dunbar. Subs: Cian Byrne, Ross Banville, Lee Chin, David Clarke, Mikie Dwyer, Kevin Foley, Richie Lawlor, Charlie McGuckin, Niall Murphy, Joe O’Connor, Damien Reck.

ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Paddy Burke, Ryan McGarry, Niall O’Connor; Gerard Walsh, Eoghan Campbell, Conal Bohill; Michael Braadley, Seaan Elliott; Keelan Molloy, Joe Maskey, James McNaughton; Conal Cunning, Neil McManus, Conor Johnston. Subs: Tiernan Smyth, Stephen Rooney, Conor Boyd, Caolan McKernan, Scott Walsh, Enda Og McGarry, Eoin O’Neill, Paul Boyle, Seamie McAuley, Rian McMullan, Domhnall Nugent.

Dublin v Westmeath, Parnell Park, 6pm

Dublin were surely relieved to come away from Belfast with a point last weekend because for most of the game it looked like they were going to fall to a defeat.

That they took something from the match was largely due to a terrific performance from Cian O’Sullivan who hit six points, five from play and a converted sideline.

He’s really blossoming into a forward of the very highest calibre, and is giving Dublin a cutting edge close to goal they they’ve lacked for some time.

Donal Burke was relatively quiet by his very high standards against Antrim, and if Dublin can get their two marquee forwards firing on the same day they’ll be seriously competitive because they’re well organised in defence and hard-working in the middle third.

Westmeath had a difficult fist championship outing against Kilkenny last weekend, losing in the end by 22 points. Without injured stars like Killian Doyle and Niall Mitchell their attacking edge has been significantly dulled.

The Lake County are always capable of producing a big performance on any given day, but Dublin will be warm favourites here.

DUBLIN: Sean Brennan; Paddy Doyle, Eoghan O’Donnell, Paddy Smyth; Conor Donohoe, Conor Burke, Daire Gray; Mark Grogan, Chris O’Leary; Danny Sutcliffe, Donal Burke, Cian Boland; Ronan Hayes, Cian O’Sullivan, Paul Crummey. Subs: Eddie Gibbons, John Bellew, James Madden, Ronan Smith, Darragh Power, Cillian Costello, Alex Considine, Fergal Whitely, Dara Purcell, Joe Flanagan, Sean Currie

WESTMEATH: Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Conor Shaw, Johnny Bermingham; Tommy Doyle, Robbie Greville, Charlie McCormack; Jack Galvin, Gary Greville; Shane McGovern, Joseph Boyle, Kevin Regan; Eoin Keyes, Ciaran Doyle, Davy Glennon. Subs: Conor Bracken, Aaron Craig, Niall Mitchell, Niall O’Brien, Derek McNicholas, Jack Gillen, Adam Ennis, Shane Clavin, Cormac Boyle, Jack Gallagher, Darragh Clinton.

Sunday 30 April
Leinster SHC round 2
Kilkenny v Galway, UPMC Nowlan Park, 2pm (RTE2)

The form-lines tell us these two are the two heavy-weights in Leinster at the moment so it’ll be fascinating to see who comes out on top on Sunday.

Question-marks remain as to where exactly Kilkenny are under new manager, Derek Lyng. They did well to reach a League Final against Limerick, but were outclassed in that match by Limerick.

It’s only now they’re fully reintegrating their Ballyhale contingent back into the team, though, and you would expect them to go from strength to strength in the coming weeks.

It’s hard to read too much into their facile first round win over Westmeath, but the form of TJ Reid who hit five points from play in his first appearance of the season will have been hugely encouraging for the county’s supporters.

Adrian Mullen too looks top of his game right now too, and if Eoin Cody hits his straps then the Kilkenny attack will be formidable.

They’ll have slight concerns that they failed to score a goal against Westmeath, and the same can be said for Galway who didn’t raise a green flag against Wexford in their first-round win.

There were plenty of positives to take from that game for the Tribesmen, though, not least the way they didn’t panic after conceding two early goals and picked Wexford apart there after.

Evan Niland really came of age in that game, scoring seven points from play, and it’s clear the see the growing potential of an evolving Galway attack.

The key to this match is likely to be the showdown between Galway’s powerful half-back line of Mannion, Burke, and Cooney against whatever trio Kilkenny field in their half-forwards.

GALWAY: Eanna Murphy; Jack Grealish, Gearoid McInerney, TJ Brennan; Padraic Mannion, Daithi Burke, Joseph Cooney; Cianan Fahy, Ronan Glennon; Cathal Mannion, Conor Cooney, Kevin Cooney; Conor Whelan, Brian Concannon, Evan Niland. Subs: Darach Fahy, Fintan Burke, Darren Morrissey, Eoin Lawless, Sean Linnane, Declan McLoughlin, Jason Flynn, Liam Collins, John Cooney, Donal O’Shea, Martin McManus.

KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield, Richie Reid, Padraig Walsh; Darragh Corcoran, Paddy Mullen; Timmy Clifford, Adrian Mullen, John Donnelly; Billy Ryan, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody. Subs: Darren Brennan, Conor Delaney, Cillian Buckley Conor Heary, Conor Fogarty, Alan Murphy, Cian Kenny, Martin Keoghan, Niall Brennan, Tom Phelan, Shane Walsh.

Munster SHC round 2
Cork v Waterford, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 4pm (RTE2)

The dynamic of a team playing their first championship match against one who played theirs the previous weekend is always an interesting one.

Will Cork’s freshness give them an advantage, or does the fact that Waterford have a game under their belts mean they’ll find it easier to get up to Championship pace than the Rebels?

Davy Fitzgerald’s team expended a lot of mental as well as physical energy against Limerick last weekend, so that may have taken a toll, particularly as they probably came off the pitch feeling like it was a game they should have won.

They played their best hurling after Tadhg De Búrca was forced off with what looked like a season-ending achilles injury, but the loss of their inspirational centre-back is still a significant one.

Tom Barron came in for him last weekend and starts on Sunday, in the only change to the XV that took to the field against Limerick.

As for Cork, Pat Ryan’s first championship team has a familiar look to it with the defence anchored down the middle by Robert Downey and Ciaran Joyce, Darragh Fitzgibbon providing the midfield thrust, and Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane, and Patrick Horgan leading the charge in attack.

This Cork team has all the skill in the world, but their defensive solidity and ability to come out on the right side of tight battles has been questioned in the past, so it’ll be interesting to see if they have the answers on Sunday.

It’s likely to be a tight match, in which case the contributions from the bench of Waterford players like Austin Gleeson and Patrick Fitzgerald and Cork players like Shane Kingston and Robbie O’Flynn could be decisive.

CORK: Patrick Collins; Niall O’Leary, Robert Downey, Damien Cahalane; Tommy O’Connell, Ciaran Joyce, Ger Mellerick, Brian Roche, Darragh Fitzgibbon; Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane, Declan Dalton; Luke Meade, Patrick Horgan, Shane Barrett. Subs: Ger Collins, Cormack O’Brien. Tim O’Mahony, Brian O’Sullivan, Ethan Twomey, Conor Cahalane, Brian Hayes, Sean Twomey, Robbie O’Flynn, Padraig Power, Shane Kingston.

WATERFORD: Billy Nolan; Conor Gleeson, Conor Prunty, Mark Fitzgerald; Tom Barron, Calum Lyons, Jack Fagan; Darragh Lyons, Jamie Barron; Neil Montgomery, Dessie Hutchinson, Michael Kiely; Colin Dunford, Stephen Bennett, Jack Prendergast. Subs: Shaun O’Brien, Conor Ryan, Padraig Fitzgerald, Carthach Daly, Peter Hogan, Kevin Mahony, Austin Gleeson, DJ Foran, Patrick Fitzgerald, Patrick Curran, Paddy Leavey.