Antrim got their league campaign off to a winning start with a defeat of Clare last weekend.
AFTER such a long period of inactivity, the cobwebs were blown away all around the country last weekend as the Allianz Hurling League swung into action.
It produced several excellent contests and with teams having a game under their belts, Round 2 is likely to be even more intense next weekend.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISON 1: GROUP A:
Saturday: Tipperary v Cork, Semple Stadium, 7.30pm
Sunday: Waterford v Westmeath, Walsh Park, 1.30pm; Galway v Limerick, Pearse Stadium, 3.45pm
Tipperary v Cork rarely fails to provide high entertainment levels and on the basis of their opening round performances it’s set up nicely for another exciting instalment in the great rivalry. Cork beat Waterford by 5-22 to 1-27 last weekend while Tipperary came away from the LIT Gaelic Grounds with a draw after a tense struggle with Limerick. Cork beat Tipperary by two points in last year’s League.
Limerick v Galway will be equally fascinating. Limerick battled back from a five-point deficit to draw with Tipperary last Saturday while Galway amassed 5-34 in their 30-point win over Westmeath. Limerick beat Galway twice last year – 1-19 to 0-14 in the League and 0-27 to 0 0-24 in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Waterford have home advantage as they attempt to get the season off the mark against Westmeath, who lost to the Deise by 3-18 to 1-15 in last year’s League.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1: GROUP B:
Saturday: Laois v Dublin, MW Hire Portlaoise, 5pm
Sunday: Clare v Wexford, Ennis, 12.45pm; Kilkenny v Antrim, UPMC Nowlan Park, 1.30pm
They hurled together for many years on a very successful Banner team but nowadays Brian Lohan and Davy Fitzgerald are in different corners in their respective roles as Clare and Wexford managers.
Fitzgerald takes his Wexford team to Cusack Park on Sunday with growing confidence after their 19-point win over Laois in the opening round. It was a different story for Clare who returned from Belfast empty-handed after an unexpected defeat by Antrim. Clare won four and drew one of their five group League games last year but are now under early pressure in the new season.
They beat Wexford twice last year - 0-18 to 0-15 in the League and 1-21 to 0-17 in the All-Ireland qualifiers. Antrim will have pep in their step ahead of their clash with Kilkenny, who also got off to a winning start when beating Dublin. It will be the first League meeting between Kilkenny and Antrim since 2008 when the Cats won by 3-22 to 1-8.
Laois and Dublin lost their opening round games so both will be intent on getting back on track when they meet in Portlaoise. Dublin beat Laois twice last year - 4-18 to 2-17 in the League and 2-31 to 0-23 in the Leinster championship.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2A:
Saturday: Wicklow v Meath, Aughrim 3pm
Sunday: Down v Carlow, Ballycran, 1pm; Offaly v Kerry, Bord na Mona O’Connor Park, 2pm
Carlow (who were relegated last year), Kerry (who reached the 2A final) and Offaly were among the pre-season favourites to challenge for promotion and they all lived up to that billing when winning their Round 1 games.
Carlow make the long trip to Ballycran to take on Down, who lost to Kerry by 11 points last weekend. Kerry v Offaly is a hugely important game, leaving the winners well-placed in the promotion race. Kerry beat Offaly by three points in last year’s League.
Meath (fourth in 2020) beat Wicklow (fifth) by 2-24 to 3-18 in last year’s League.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2B:
Saturday: Kildare v Donegal, Newbridge, 1pm; Roscommon v Mayo, Dr. Hyde Park, 2pm
Mayo and Donegal were the winners in the opening round and now it’s the turn of Kildare to enter the fray for their first game. They host Donegal (3A winners last year), who beat Roscommon last weekend. The Lilywhites finished third in 2B last year. Mayo, who made a winning start against Derry, travel to Dr.Hyde Park to take on Roscommon.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3A
Sunday: Armagh v Longford, Athletic Grounds, 1pm; Tyrone v Monaghan, Omagh, 2pm
It’s opening round day in a group where the teams finished as follows last year: Armagh: Beaten 3A finalists; Tyrone third; Longford fourth; Monaghan fifth; Sligo 3B winners.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3B
Cavan v Fermanagh, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2pm; Leitrim v Louth, Avant Money Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada
It’s opening round day in a group where the teams finished as follows last year. Leitrim beaten 3B finalists; Cavan fourth; Fermanagh fifth; Louth bottom of 3A.
ALLIANZ LEAGUE SHORTS
* Of the 11 games played last weekend, there were seven home wins, three away wins and one draw.
* Galway (5-34) and Cork (5-22) were top scoring teams
* Top scorers were as follows:
Div 1: Stephen Bennett (Waterford) 1-12 (0-7 frees, 0-1 ‘65’); Ciaran Clarke (Antrim) 1-11 (0-9 frees, 0-1 ‘65’); Evan Niland (Galway) 0-13 (0-10 frees); Patrick Horgan (Cork) 0-12 (0-8 frees, 0-3 ‘65s); Tony Kelly (Clare) 0-11 (0-7 frees, 0-1 ‘65’).
Div 2A: Marty Kavanagh (Carlow) 2-9 (0-8 frees); Eoghan Cahill (Offaly) 0-12 (0-8 frees, 0-1 s/l); Paul Sheehan (Down) 0-11 (0-7 frees, 0-3 ‘65s); Shane Nolan (Kerry) 1-6 (0-3 ‘65s, 0-2 frees).
Div 2B: Cormac O’ Doherty (Derry) 0-10 (0-9 frees, 0-1 ‘65’); Declan Coulter (Donegal) 0-9 (0-5 frees); Cathal Dolan (Roscommon) 1-5 (1-0 per, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘65’); Shane Boland (Mayo) 0-7 (0-5 frees, 0-1 ‘65’);
* Limerick are unbeaten in the League since losing to Cork on 24 February 2019.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE 2021: RESULTS & FIXTURES
DIVISION 1 GROUP A
Round 1: Galway 5-34 Westmeath 1-16; Limerick 0-20 Tipperary 0-20; Cork 5-22 Waterford 1-27.
Round 2: May 15: Tipperary v Cork; May 16: Waterford v Westmeath; Galway v Limerick;.
Round 3: May 22: Tipperary v Galway; May 23: Cork v Westmeath; Waterford v Limerick.
Round 4: June 5: Limerick v Cork; June 6: Westmeath v Tipperary; Galway v Waterford.
Round 5: June 13: Westmeath v Limerick; Waterford v Tipperary; Cork v Galway.
DIVISION 1 GROUP B
Round 1: Kilkenny 1-20 Dublin 0-18; Antrim 1-21 Clare 0-22; Wexford 4-17 Laois 0-10.
Round 2: May 15: Laois v Dublin; May 16: Clare v Wexford; Kilkenny v Antrim.
Round 3: May 22: Dublin v Antrim; May 23: Kilkenny v Wexford; Laois v Clare.
Round 4: June 5: Antrim v Wexford; Dublin v Clare; June 6: Kilkenny v Laois.
Round 5: June 12: Antrim v Laois; Clare v Kilkenny; Wexford v Dublin.
Round 1: Kerry 4-18 Down 0-19; Offaly 3-25 Meath 3-9; Carlow 3-19 Wicklow 0-17.
Round 2: May 15: Wicklow v Meath; May 16: Down v Carlow; Offaly v Kerry.
Round 3: May 23: Kerry v Meath; Carlow v Offaly; Wicklow v Down.
Round 4: June 5: Kerry v Wicklow; June 6: Offaly v Down; Meath v Carlow.
Round 5: June 13: Wicklow v Offaly; Down v Meath; Carlow v Kerry.
Round 1: Donegal 1-13 Roscommon 1-11; Mayo 0-21 Derry 1-16.
Round 2: May 15: Kildare v Donegal; Roscommon v Mayo
Round 3: May 23: Donegal v Mayo; Kildare v Derry.
Round 4: June 6: Roscommon v Kildare; Derry v Donegal.
Round 5: June 12: Mayo v Kildare; Derry v Roscommon.
Round 1: May 16: Armagh v Longford; Tyrone v Monaghan
Round 2: May 22: Sligo v Armagh; Longford v Tyrone
Round 3: May 29: Sligo v Longford; May 30: Monaghan v Armagh.
Round 4: June 12: Tyrone v Sligo; Longford v Monaghan.
Round 5: June 1: Monaghan v Sligo; Armagh v Tyrone.
Round 1: May 16: Cavan v Fermanagh; Leitrim v Louth.
Round 2: May 23: Fermanagh v Leitrim; Louth v Cavan.
Round 3: June 6: Leitrim v Cavan; Louth v Fermanagh.