NHL Division 1A- Round Four Preview
By Matthew Hurley
We’re over halfway through the league campaign already, time has well and truly flown by. Who would’ve thought that Limerick, the supposed all conquers in years to come would be struggling to win a game, Cork, a team who were apparently finished, are now flying it or even Waterford, All-Ireland Finalists in 2020 would be struggling to win games.
This division has had it’s fair share of surprise performances to date, but maybe the strugglers such as Limerick have one eye on championship, shown by the fact they’re putting out second string sides regularly. This weekend will show what teams are up for finishing top of this group and what teams have one eye on the Liam McCarthy by resting players.
Limerick v Cork
When: Saturday 5th June, 7:15pm
Where: LIT Gaelic Grounds
Channel: Eir Sport/RTE2
Referee: Alan Kelly, Galway
Only Westmeath and Laois have had worse starts to the League than John Kiely’s Limerick, who have only 1 point on the board so far.
This type of form makes people wonder, is this team at a crossroads or are they going through the motions leading up to championship hurling.
Their Munster rivals Cork on the other hand look flawless so far, with new players Alan Connolly, Niall Cashman and Shane Barrett adding extra impetus into this Rebels side.
It seems as if Kieran Kingston, Diarmuid O’Sullivan and new coach Donal O’Grady have rectified the wrongs from last year. Signs look good, but then again it’s ‘only League.’
The Treaty seem to be putting out an understrength side once again, with Kiely bringing in faces such as Barry Hennessy and Colin Coughlan.
Young sharpshooter Cathal O’Neill is being bedded in for the campaign while past fringe players David Dempsey and Adrian Breen have been given more gametime.
A lot of new players have entered the fray for Cork too, but seem to be gelling better with the older players around them.
The experienced guard are having superb campaigns, such as Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Patrick Horgan, and that in return has helped the U20’s from last year blossom.
This game will be tough to call in the Munster Semi-Final later on, but for now, Cork have the overall edge here, given their form and having something meaningful to play for.
Verdict: Cork by 3
Westmeath v Tipperary
When: Sunday 6th June, 2:00pm
Where: TEG Cusack Park
Channel: TG4 App
Referee: Liam Gordan (Galway)
There has been all sorts of questions about whether Joe McDonagh Cup side Westmeath are out of their depth in Division 1 Hurling.
If you look at their beatings so far, especially against Galway and Cork, the answer would be a straightforward yes.
However if you delve into the facts of those particular games, realising Davy Glennon and Niall O’Brien went off in the first half with injuries against Cork, it could be argued that they have been extremely unlucky.
Liam Sheedy’s Tipperary team look in good fettle though. They are one of 3 Division 1 sides that are unbeaten, and that trend doesn’t look like it’ll stop this weekend.
Players like Josh Coll and Killian Doyle have been superb in trying to keep the Lake County in games, but let’s be honest, this game will be over by half time.
Fringe players like Willie Connors, Jake Morris, Eoghan Connolly and Paddy Cadell will all be dying to prove a point to their manager with brilliant performances.
If Coll and Doyle are on top form, it will be contest beyond half time, but unfortunately for Shane O’Brien’s men, it could be a long afternoon.
Verdict: Tipperary by 25
Galway v Waterford
When: Sunday 6th June, 3:45pm
Where: Pearse Stadium
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)
This match could be seen as an audition for which team is up to challenging Limerick as the Hurling top dogs.
Both sides beat Limerick, both sides have 4 points on the board, meaning this match will probably determine who will challenge Cork and Tipperary going into the final round of matches.
Galway have been the most impressive out of the two, but only just. They beat Limerick and Westmeath more comprehensively than Waterford did.
Although a set back from the last game against Tipperary, where Liam Sheedy’s men thought them a lesson.
Liam Cahill’s team have a point to prove here as some people regarded Galway as the second best team in Ireland last year, despite the Deise making the Final.
This is a chance for the away side to silence the doubters by going on and winning this match.
Tadgh De Burca is clearly a huge loss for them though as they don’t have quiet the same defensive solidity as last year, an area in the team which brought them to the 2020 showpiece.
For Galway, a huge plus is having star man Joe Canning back to fitness, after last year’s injury v Limerick.
Players like Brian Concannon, Jarlath Mannion and especially Cathal Mannion have stepped up to the plate since Canning’s injury, and need to do so here in order to get the 2 points.
Again, like with Limerick against Cork, the line-ups for both sides will tell us a lot about how this game will pan out.
Until then though, I think Galway will have the edge. Home advantage, Canning back in the fray, and if they produce the same form they did against Limerick 3 weeks ago, they should beat this Waterford side.
Verdict: Galway by 2