Antrim talisman Neil McManus.
THERE'S a long way to go in the Allianz Hurling League but defending champions Limerick are already facing a big test in their bid to secure the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 title for a third successive year.
One point from a possible four was not the anticipated start for the All-Ireland and Allianz League champions, which makes Sunday’s clash with Waterford crucial to their prospects of getting back into a challenging position.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1 GROUP A: ALL-IRELAND & MUNSTER FINAL REPEAT IN WALSH PARK
Saturday: Tipperary v Galway, Semple Stadium 1.30pm; Sunday: Cork v Westmeath, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 3pm; Waterford v Limerick, Walsh Park, 3.45pm
Galway are the only team in the group on full points after two rounds, a happy position for Shane O’Neill and his squad as they head for Thurles for the latest instalment in their great rivalry with Tipperary.
Waterford v Limerick has a familiar ring too as they met no fewer than three times last year. Cork have made a good start – a draw and a win – and will be fancied to extend their unbeaten run at home to Westmeath.
Limerick find themselves in the unusual position of being without a win after two rounds, which adds to the importance of their clash with Waterford in Walsh Park.
Limerick beat Waterford three times last year: 1-21 to 1-17 in the League; 0-25 to 0-21 in the Munster final; 0-30 to 0-19 in the All-Ireland final. Limerick also beat the Deise in the 2019 Division 1 final and in the 2019 Munster championship.
Tipperary v Galway has been one of the closest rivalries in hurling for a long time, the most recent example being in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final which Galway won by 3-23 to 2-24. Galway also won last year’s League clash (3-21 to 3-13).
After a big defeat by Galway in Round 1, Westmeath produced a much better performance against Waterford last weekend when losing by three points. It will greatly encourage them for the clash with Cork, who beat them by four points in last year’s League (3-12 to 1-14).
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1 GROUP B: TOP TWO CLASH IN NOWLAN PARK
Saturday: Dublin v Antrim, Parnell Park, 5pm; Sunday: Kilkenny v Wexford, UPMC Nowlan Park, 2pm; Laois v Clare, Portlaoise 3pm
With both having won their first two games, the clash of Kilkenny and Wexford will be the highlight of Round 3 in a group where Dublin and Antrim are both on two points while Clare and Laois have yet to pick up a point.
Wexford beat Kilkenny by two points in last year’s League, a result which extended to six the number of games the Model men have gone against their great rivals without losing. Clare beat Laois eight points in the 2020 League but it was much closer in the All-Ireland qualifiers where the Banner edged home by a point.
Dublin and Antrim last met in the League in 2018 when Dublin won by a point (0-23 to 0-22).
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: OFFALY SET EARLY PACE IN PROMOTION RACE
Sunday: Kerry v Meath, Tralee, 1pm; Carlow v Offaly, Netwatch Cullen Park, 2pm; Wicklow v Down, Aughrim, 2pm
Big wins over Meath and Kerry have not only taken Offaly to the top of the table but also greatly boosted their scoring difference which stands at +37 points. It’s an impressive haul to take to Carlow for a clash where the home side will be hoping for a quick recovery after losing by two points to Down last weekend.
Carlow beat Offaly in a Division 1 relegation play-off in 2019 after staging a great recovery, coming from 11 points down to win by one.. Carlow, Meath, Down and Kerry are all on two points, with Wicklow without a point so far.
Kerry beat Meath by five points in last year’s League while Down beat Wicklow by 11 points in 2B .
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: MAYO ON 100 PER CENT RECORD AFTER TWO ROUNDS
Sunday: Donegal v Mayo, Letterkenny, 2pm; Kildare v Derry, Hawkfield, 4pm
Wins over Derry and Roscommon have hoisted Mayo to the top of the table, a position they will hope to maintain on Sunday when they take on Donegal who suffered a big defeat against Kildare in Round 2. Kildare and Derry have only played one game each (two wins) so Sunday’s winners will very much in the promotion race.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3A: ULSTER PAIR LEAD THE WAY
Saturday: Sligo v Armagh, Markievicz Park, 2pm; Longford, v Tyrone, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park Park, 2pm
Armagh and Tyrone lead the way after Round 1 after wins over Longford and Monaghan respectively. Sligo will have their first outing of the campaign at home to Armagh.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3B: LOUTH THE EARLY PACE-SETTERS
Sunday: Fermanagh v Leitrim, Brewster Park, 2pm; Louth v Cavan, Darver, 2pm
Louth top the table after a Round 1 win over Leitrim; Cavan and Fermanagh drew.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE SHORTS
* Of the 15 games played last weekend, eight were home wins, five were away wins while two were drawn. It leaves the overall figures after two rounds as follows: home wins 15; Away wins 8; Draws 3.
* Top Scorers: Division 1: Evan Niland (Galway) 0-27 (0-24 frees); Donal Burke (Dublin) 0-25 (0-20 frees, 0-2 ‘65s’)’; Jason Forde (Tipperary) 0-24 (0-21 frees); Patrick Horgan (Cork) 1-18 (0-13 frees, 0-3 ‘65s’); Ciaran Clarke (Antrim) 2-14 (0-12 frees, 0-1 ‘65’).
* Tipperary have yet to score a goal in this League, having drawn with Limerick and Cork via the points route (0-20 and 0-22) in the first two rounds.
* Clare have lost their opening two League games for the first time since 2015.
* Cork (a win and a draw) have made their best start to the League since 2014.
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: Tipperary 0-22 Cork 2-16; Waterford 1-22 Westmeath 1-19; Galway 0-26 Limerick 1-17.
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: Dublin 0-30 Laois 1-19; Wexford 2-19 Clare 1-21; Kilkenny 1-28 Antrim 3-15.
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: Meath 0-20 Wicklow 0-11; Down 3-20 Carlow 3-18; Offaly 2-28 Kerry 0-13.
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: Kildare 4-29 Donegal 0-14; Mayo 1-20 Roscommon 1-9.
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: Armagh 2-21 Longford 0-16; Tyrone 1-25 Monaghan 2-13
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: Cavan 1-19 Fermanagh 2-16; Louth1-16 Leitrim 2-11.
Round 2: May 23: Fermanagh v Leitrim; Louth v Cavan.
Round 3: June 6: Leitrim v Cavan; Louth v Fermanagh.