The lack of competitiveness in Division 1B is a big issue in this year’s National Hurling League, with a plethora of one-sided games having dominating the second tier.
Out of 15 matches in the round-robin phase of the competition, it only looked like three would be relevant to the promotion race. However, with Wexford’s opening wins over Limerick and Galway, the meeting between those two has proven insignificant before the sides have even met.
The final three rounds of matches pose a set of games that won’t have any effect on who gets promoted – barring an unlikely disaster for Davy Fitz’s Slaneysiders.
Worse still, two consecutive rounds of the league (last week’s and this weekend’s games) have the big three of the division – Wexford, Galway and Limerick in separate matches.
Over the next few days those three sides all play games they should win easily – so what can they learn this weekend?
Limerick travel to Portlaoise on Saturday evening for their televised clash with Laois. After struggling past the line against Offaly last time out, the Treaty face a Midlands side who they have had less trouble getting over in the last few years.
John Kiely’s side had their promotion push end before it began when they lost to Wexford in round one, so it has been a strange campaign for Limerick. They have tried out more players than most sides in the league, and will be hoping to settle on a team come the championship.
Galway put up a huge score against Laois and will be looking to do the same against Kerry. Again, settling on a XV for the summer will be huge for the Westerners who will struggle to gain much from this clash.
Wexford will secure promotion with a win at the weekend so there may be nerves in the air when they face Offaly. The Faithful threw away a great chance to win in Limerick last time out and confidence will be low. They will be happy to play the role of party poopers but it is hard to see Wexford not win.
With the pressure of guaranteeing top spot on Davy Fitz’s side, Wexford will just be looking to get over the line. They have played well so far so having to grind out a win won’t bother them, if it even comes to that.
Their initial burst brought life to Division 1B – but then killed it off almost immediately as they all but sealed top spot. The south-east side will be looking to keep things low-key and try and get the two points on Sunday.
While Limerick and Galway are merely counting down the days until the pair meet in the Gaelic Grounds, Wexford will be looking to finish what they started with a win over their rivals.
Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena