NHL Division 1B- Round Four Preview
By Ben Bernie
The state of the game dominates a lot of the national media, with some having issues with tactics and the referees interpretation of the rules, Richie Power was the latest to have a go. Many are just looking forward to watching and enjoying the games. In Division 1B this weekend we have two very competitive fixtures and one we hope won’t be too one sided. Wexford make the long trip up north to face Antrim, Dublin host Clare, while Laois make the daunting trip to Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.
Antrim vs Wexford
In Antrim’s first game, they had a morale boosting victory over Clare, since then they have produced two decent performances but came away with nothing. It’s obvious that to stay in the division, they need to take something from their home games. So they will be trying to make Corrigan Park a bit of a fortress. They will be thinking, we beat Clare up here, so why can’t we beat the men from the sunny southeast.
The last meeting between the sides was in 2015, when Wexford needed a last-gasp point from Harry Kehoe to snatch a victory. In 2014 they met twice, Wexford won by just the solitary point in the league, but won the championship fixture by 13. In 2012, Antrim actually beat Wexford, so don’t be surprised if Antrim upset the apple cart.
Wexford will be reeling from a poor performance and hammering from Kilkenny, so they will be looking to bounce back with a victory. They’ll probably stay in Belfast the night before, so the long journey shouldn’t be too much of a factor. Stalwarts Conor Macdonald, Paul Morris and Shaun Murphy all got some game time last weekend, so expect to see more of them on Saturday.
Three weeks on from this game, both these sides will be opening their championship campaigns. Hence we have to expect things to ramp up from this weekend onwards. Places will be up for grabs and managers will need to ensure the players are ready for the business part of the season.
Venue: Corrigan Park, Belfast
Day: Saturday 5th June
Dublin vs Clare
Both these sides are in a similar position, excellent hurlers, but haven’t really performed in recent years. Dublin have probably been a little more impressive thus far, but not by much. Mattie Kenny will be looking to get a significant victory to instil some belief in his charges, this seems like the perfect opportunity against a Clare side which haven’t caught fire so far, and at home in Parnell Park.
The positioning of Chris Crummey and Liam Rushe will be interesting again, with many thinking Crummey should switch to defence and Rushe to the forwards. Will the latest controversy affect Clare? They appeared very annoyed at the close contacts debacle with Wexford and the HSE, and then county board issues can’t stay out of the limelight. Tony Kelly should return after sitting out the victory over Laois so that could be key. In his absence though, Aidan McCarthy has stepped up and Shane O’Donnell looked at his best against Laois. So maybe Clare are coming good at the right time.
Venue: Parnell Park, Dublin
Day: Saturday 5th June
Time: 5.15pm Channel: Eir Sport
Kilkenny vs Laois
This is a daunting prospect for Laois. They are bottom of the table, having lost all three matches, including heavy beatings against Wexford and Clare. In three weeks time, Laois will face Wexford again in the Leinster quarter final, they will need to improve hugely if they are to avoid another big defeat. Kilkenny are top of the table, coming off a significant win over Wexford, and TJ Reid is as good as ever.
He bagged 1-18 in that game, and Laois will be hoping Cody gives him a break for this one. The Cats had looked quietly impressive in the first two games, and looked the part last Sunday, Billy Ryan also stepped up with 1-4 from play. Kilkenny look like they will have a big say in this year’s championship, let’s hope they go easy on Laois.
Venue: UPMC Nowlan Park, Kilkenny
Day: Sunday 5th June