This weekend will see at least one major hurling county eliminated from the championship. Not only this but we will also see either Galway or Wexford crowned Leinster champions.
Christy Ring Cup champions Carlow were eliminated from the championship last weekend when there were beaten by Laois in the preliminary round of qualifiers. This week we will see four more sides exit the hurling championship.
Undoubtedly, the biggest game of the weekend is the Leinster hurling final. Wexford are aiming for a first provincial title in 13 years, while Galway hope to prove they can handle the favourites tag.
Ahead of the weekend, let’s take a look at five of the main talking points.
All-Ireland champions Tipperary’s debutants should cruise back to winning ways
Michael Ryan has made a statement with his selection for Tipperary’s return to action. Cathal Barrett has been released from the panel, while Darren Gleeson, John O’Keeffe, Seamus Kennedy, Sean Curran and John McGrath also lose their places on the team.
There are debuts for goalkeeper Darragh Mooney, Tomás Hamill and Joe O’Dwyer. All-in-all, this should prove to be the perfect way for the Premier to get the show back on the road. Anything less than a double-digit victory would be highly disappointing for the All-Ireland champions.
Déise and Dubs should have more than enough to advance
However poor both the Déise and the Dubs were in their opening fixtures, they should find themselves in the draw for round two on Monday morning. With Offaly and Laois providing the opposition respectively, a shock in one of the two fixtures is not completely beyond the realms of possibility.
In saying this, Derek McGrath and Ger Cunningham will both be seeking a high margin of victory. The duo came in for criticism following their counties defeats, and this weekend can only provide a negative unfortunately. That said, we expect both counties to advance.
Could we see a classic in Nowlan Park?
When the draw was made last Monday morning, one draw stood out like a sore thumb. Kilkenny and Limerick haven’t met in championship since an epic battle in 2014. On that occasion Kilkenny ground out a narrow victory before becoming All-Ireland champions that September.
The interesting thing about this clash is that both sides will suit each other. Neither county are overly tactical, in fact they use little to no tactics. This means that the game will come down simply to the side who performs best on the night.
A must-win for both sides, Kilkenny will be tipped by most, but Limerick have always thrived when written off. The Treaty will by no means fear the Cats.
Can Wexford’s amazing 2017 capture another joyous occasion?
So far in 2017, Davy Fitzgerald has overseen a division 1B promotion, two victories over Kilkenny, and a place in a Leinster final. This is a progression Wexford supporters could have only dreamed of 12 months ago. Yet, here they are, preparing for a potential moment of history.
Having won three Leinster u21 titles between 2013-2015, the Yellowbellies have got more than enough talent. But, until now, Wexford have lacked the belief.
A Leinster title would be worth so much more than words can describe to Wexford. They will need Lee Chin, Conor McDonald and anyone who plays a part Sunday to maximise their potential if they are to be successful. Neutrals of the hurling world would love to see them do it.
Are Galway finally ready to climb the steps in September?
The shocking effect defeat would have this Sunday must be emphasised. For any other county, a simple bounce-back would be expected. But this is Galway, a side who have been labelled inconsistent year after year.
Sunday is a must-win for Micheal Donoghue’s men. If they are going to take Liam MacCarthy home this September then they must lay down a marker here. Form to date certainly seems to lead us to believe that they will do it, but how many times have form books been thrown out the window?
The Tribesmen face a side riding on the crest of a wave at the moment, and this will play a factor. Wexford will most likely bring a huge crowd this Sunday, and should momentum swing in their favour, Galway may find it difficult to grasp it back.
Still, when all is said and done, we expect the Tribesmen to lay down a marker here and prove they are serious contenders for this year’s crown.
Kevin Daly, Pundit Arena
While you’re here, listen to the latest episode of The 16th Man, where we were joined by Richie Hogan, Dick Clerkin and Dara O’Cinnéide.
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