Allianz NHL Division 1A- Round Three Preview
By Cian Barry
We were very close to the clean sweep last week with our picks of Cork, Galway and Waterford but Cork allowed Tipp to snatch a draw late on. We now look ahead to this week's games all with their own intriguing possibilities.
Tipperary v Galway
Another game between two sides who remain unbeaten after 2 matches so far. Tipp coming away with two draws, one which they could have won and one which they could have lost, while Galway continued where they left off against Westmeath by defeating Limerick comfortably enough.
This should turn out to be a very good battle as both teams have outperformed last years All Ireland champions Limerick which is a very high line of form to be taking. Tipp will have been happy with parts of their play against Cork, but they will be hoping to eradicate the poor wide's similar to the ones they had at the start of the second half. Jason Forde again will be expected to carry the scoring mantle from placed balls but will be hoping John McGrath can increase his tally of two points from the last day.
Galway have made nine changes for the game with Joe Canning being named at midfield. This could prove to be a playmaker battle between himself and Noel McGrath if the space allows. The other changes see starting places for Darren Morrissey, five-time All-Star Daithí Burke, TJ Brennan, Aidan Harte, Johnny Coen, Jason Flynn, Conor Cooney, and Kevin Cooney.
What is looking like a big match for each team to set down a marker for the season ahead, this isn’t a game to be missed.
Verdict – Tipperary
Day and Time – Saturday 1.30pm Venue – Semple Stadium Channel – TG4
Cork v Westmeath
Two sides at opposite ends of the spectrum, but the easy victory most expect for the Rebel County is no guarantee.
Westmeath were unlucky 4-point losers in last year's encounter and will be sure to be fired up after a battling display against Waterford. They hit a disappointing 5 wides in a row just before half time in that game and gave themselves a mountain to climb for the 2nd half. Kevin Doyle had a very high scoring match finishing off with 1-08 to himself and will surely have to be marked tightly by Cork's rearguard.
Cork come into this game following two strong performances. What will be interesting is how experimental the side named will be with a lot of youngsters drafted into the panel, the Cork management might see this as the perfect game to give experience to the new blood. But don’t expect too many changes, as they will want to ensure they continue the momentum of their impressive start to the season. But you can be sure that whatever team lines out, their style of play will stay the same and keeping a clean sheet while scoring goals up the other end will be high on their priority list.
Cork likely to take the lead and keep it for the day but expect a similar battling performance from Westmeath to ensure they don’t have it all their own way.
Verdict – Cork
Day and Time – Sunday 3.00pm Venue – Pairc Ui Chaoimh Channel – GAAGo
Waterford v Limerick
A huge game for both teams. Neither one of them has hit the same form as last year which had seen them contest the All-Ireland Final.
Waterford, who were second best to Cork and had lackluster display against Westmeath (they did go a man down) will be hoping that this is the game to kickstart the season. Tadgh de Burca is looking like a bigger loss every game though. It can be debated whether this is a good time or bad time to be facing Limerick. They have lost their unbeaten run and could be coming to Walsh Park low on confidence, but likewise they could be like a wounded beast ready to strike.
I can see John Kiely naming his strongest team for this game as he will be doing his best to ensure the players get over the beating by Galway as fast as possible and ensure that people move on from his comments after the game. You can be sure there will be a performance from this team before the league finishes, but who that will come out against is anyone's guess.
However, I do fear that the loser of this game could very well struggle for the rest of the season. One bad game happens to everyone, two bad games is a bad week, three bad games become bad form. And that is when it becomes difficult to turn around.
Verdict – Waterford
Day and Time – Sunday 3.45pm Venue – Walsh Park Channel – TG4