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NHL Division 1B Round 5 Preview

By Ben Bernie

The state of the game is still dominating a lot of the national media, previously it was not enough goals, the narrative now is that there are too many scores. Many are just looking forward to watching and enjoying the games. In Division 1B this weekend we have three extremely competitive fixtures where players will have their last proper opportunity to impress before championship. All three games throw in at 3pm Saturday, Wexford host Dublin, Clare welcome Kilkenny to Ennis, and Laois make the trip to Belfast to take on Antrim.

Wexford vs Dublin

Dublin head to Wexford on the back of a five point loss to Clare in their own backyard. They have many good hurlers and have put on a few decent performances, but are yet to take a significant victory. This will be their last chance in the league this year, and they will fancy their chances against a Wexford side that hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders. Chris Crummey’s positioning will be of note, he played in a deeper role last weekend, having played in the half forward line up to that point. Danny Sutcliffe has been having an excellent league thus far, while Donal Burke is likely to knock any chances he gets over the bar.

Wexford were involved in a great game in Belfast last week, but you couldn’t say it was a great performance. Conor Mcdonald, Paul Morris and Shaun Murphy all looked to improve things, but were not as sharp as they would like, expect them to be better again this week. Matt O’Hanlon will sit this game out after his red card against Antrim, so it will be interesting to see who fills in at centre back. Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald will also be missing from the sideline after receiving a two match ban for his altercation with Antrim manager Darren Gleeson. Don’t forget the last time Davy had to sit out a fixture for Wexford, the memorable win over Kilkenny in 2017, so Wexford should be fine.

Verdict: Wexford

Venue: Wexford Park

Day: Saturday 12th June

Time: 3.00pm

Channel: GAAGO

Clare vs Kilkenny

After a poor start, Clare seem to have turned things around. Tony Kelly looks almost at his best, Aidan McCarthy looks a coming force, Aaron Shanagher has had a great league campaign, John Conlon appears to be coming to grips with the centre back role and Shane O’Donnell has shown glimpses of his best form. That being said, Kilkenny look pretty good too. Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has been careful in his use of TJ Reid, he has been absent from the victories over Antrim and Laois. He’ll be in the 15 against Clare, and probably the man of the match. Adrian Mullen has been improving with each game, and this will be a bigger test for him. Kilkenny have already secured top spot, but has that ever stopped them?

Verdict: Kilkenny

Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

Day: Saturday 12th June

Time: 3.00pm

Channel: Eir Sport

Antrim vs Laois

This was expected to be a relegation eliminator, but Laois have been cast adrift and Antrim look excellent. Antrim were superb again last week and could easily have beaten Wexford, they will give themselves a serious chance against Dublin in the Leinster quarter final. The trio of MacManus, Molloy and McNaughton will be a handful for any team, let alone against a side low on confidence who are yet to win a game this year. Laois did improve against Kilkenny, but then again TJ Reid was missing. Their championship encounter with Wexford is only two weeks away and they will need to improve some more if they are to realistically compete. Ross King and Paddy Purcell are players who would make most intercounty teams, but Antrim have performed so much better than them and have made Corrigan Park a fortress.

Verdict: Antrim

Venue: Corrigan Park, Belfast

Day: Saturday 12th June

Time: 3.00pm

Channel: GAAGO

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