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Allianz NHL Division 1B- Round Three Preview

By Ben Bernie

Allianz National League Division Round 3 Preview The big talking point from round 1 was the amount of frees awarded, the big talking point from round 2 was the amount of frees awarded, let’s hope after round 3 we end up talking about the quality of the hurling on show. In Division 1B this weekend we have three very competitive fixtures. Dublin welcome Antrim to Donnycarney, Wexford head to Kilkenny and Laois host Clare in Portlaoise.

Dublin vs Antrim

So far both sides have one win and one loss, they will both be content with their performances, but know they have room for improvement. Their common opponent has been Kilkenny, to which both put up a good show but were ultimately defeated in the final quarter. A win for either side would guarantee their safety for this year in the division, so both will be keen to cement that place. The most intriguing piece is that in five weeks time, these two will meet again in the quarter final of the Leinster Championship. So don’t be surprised if the teams are trying to lay down a marker. Antrim’s displays have been excellent so far and Dublin will not take them lightly, but home advantage, along with Donal Burke's accuracy from placed balls should get them over the line.

Verdict: Dublin

Venue: Parnell Park, Dublin

Day: Saturday 22nd May

Time: 5.00pm

Channel: GAAGO

Kilkenny vs Wexford

These sides sit top of Division 1B and will be keen to get one over on each other. Wexford have had the better of the clashes in recent years, but Kilkenny have looked more impressive in the league thus far and also have home advantage. Wexford have also reported two positive Covid-19 cases which is bound to curtail their preparations. Although not being outstanding in either game, Kilkenny recorded two comfortable enough victories, they seem to be coming along nicely and are expected to welcome back five-time All-Star TJ Reid after a minor injury kept him out last weekend. Adrian Mullen continued his return and notched three points against Antrim, expect him to improve again this Sunday. Wexford were excellent in the last 10 minutes against Clare, overhauling an eight point deficit. Rory O’Connor was outstanding and he will again be the one to watch, he was also man of the match when Wexford won the Leinster title against Kilkenny in 2019. Wexford already had their injury trouble before the Clare game, and the loss of at least two more players will make things even more difficult. It is also notoriously difficult to win in Nowlan Park. Most likely these two will also meet in the Leinster semi-final in six weeks time, which should also add that bit of spice to the contest.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Venue: UPMC Nowlan Park, Kilkenny

Day: Sunday 23rd March

Time: 2.00pm

Channel: Spórt TG4, deferred on TG4 5.35pm

Laois vs Clare

Both of these sides are bottom of the table, and yet to record a victory. Neither will be happy with performances so far. Clare performed well for 60 minutes against Wexford last weekend, but succombed to defeat in the closing stages, while Laois showed a much improved display against Dublin. Two-time All-Ireland winning manager Ger Loughnane has been warning for a while that if Tony Kelly is not there, Clare could become a Joe Mcdonagh side. Well this weekend he might not be, so it will be interesting to see how they fair if this is the case. Aidan McCarthy was superb in taking over his role last weekend after Kelly came off injured, so he could be the key for Clare. In last year's championship, only a point separated these sides, so Laois may feel they have a great chance, especially with home advantage.

Verdict: Clare

Venue: MW Hire O'Moore Park, Portlaoise

Day: Sunday 23rd May

Time: 3.00pm

Channel: GAA GO

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