The competition is heating up in the Allianz Hurling League with only one round of games left until the knock-out stages.
In Group A, Limerick continued their unbeaten run on Sunday with a narrow win over Cork while there were also victories for Tipperary and Waterford, who are keeping the pressure on the Treaty men for that top spot.
Meanwhile, in Group B, Clare’s winning streak came to an end with a draw away to Kilkenny while Wexford overcame Dublin in Croke Park and Laois saw off Carlow to seal their Division 1 status.
Read our talking points from the weekend’s games below.
1. Clare through to knock-out stages despite Kilkenny draw
If you told Brian Lohan when he took over as the Clare manager that his side would be sitting top of Group B in the Allianz League after four rounds of games while they also earned a draw away to All Ireland finalists Kilkenny, it’s fair to say he would have been happy.
However, there was plenty about their performance in Nowlan Park on Sunday that will have frustrated him. The Banner County hit 17 wides across the 70 minutes, including one last-minute effort from David McInerney that would have sealed the win. The side were five points ahead at the break but Ger Aylward’s goal helped Kilkenny take control of the clash.
Still, there are plenty of positives for Clare, not least of which their scoring ability. While they hit 17 wides, they also registered 3-13 with Shane O’Donnell responsible for two of their goals. They look a confident side as they prepare to welcome Dublin to Cusack Park next week and will surely be the heavy favourites regardless of who they face in the Allianz League quarter-final.
2. Laois cement Division 1 status
Eddie Brennan and Laois breathed a heavy sigh of relief on Saturday evening as they secured their Division 1 status with a hard-fought one-point win over Carlow in O’Moore Park. It was a deserved win for the home side who led up until the final minutes of the game but the victory never look assured until the final whistle.
For a side who reached the quarter-final stages of both the Allianz League and All-Ireland Championship last year, facing into a relegation battle would have been a major blow but they have not made life easy on themselves this year. An 11-point loss to Wexford was followed by a convincing beating by Dublin before losing by eight points to Clare.
The results will no doubt give Brennan much to consider as they head into their final league clash against Kilkenny on Sunday before they begin preparations for life back in the Leinster Championship.
3. Limerick survive stern Cork test
The manner in which Limerick overcame Cork in Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday will have greatly pleased John Kiely especially considering their impending meeting at the same venue in May in the Munster Championship.
Although they let an eight-point lead slip, that was to be expected given the calibre of their opposition. Patrick Horgan registered 17 points on the day while Shane Kingston and Aidan Walsh also hit the back of the net for the Rebels. Perhaps their lack of goal scoring opportunities created will be an issue to look at for the management but overall it was a hugely positive win for the Treaty men.
Aaron Gillane showed the type of class he exuded during last year’s Allianz League while Cian Lynch showed some magical skill. However, what will be most pleasing was the manner in which they closed out the game scoring the last three points of the game after Horgan pushed Cork in front with less than five minutes remaining.
4. Tipperary finally get a win under their belt
While a strong win at home to Westmeath would have been expected, Liam Sheedy and Tipperary will be delighted to get a win under their belt and points on the board to keep their hopes of reaching the Allianz League knock-out stages alive.
Last week’s postponed clash against Galway may have been a blessing in disguise for the Premier County. A loss would have effectively ended their chances of a quarter-final spot but this week’s win puts them right back in contention, especially given the Tribesmen’s loss to Waterford at the weekend.
It leaves them in a crucial position as they prepare to welcome Waterford to Semple Stadium next weekend before their rescheduled clash with Galway. The Deise are unbeaten so far in this year’s competition but Sunday’s 20-point win over Westmeath will give Sheedy’s men a much-needed boost of momentum heading into the decisive encounter.
For a full list of this weekend’s Allianz League results, click here.