It’s a crucial weekend in the Allianz Hurling League, which features Round 3 across the various Allianz Hurling Divisions on Saturday and Sunday. With only two more rounds remaining after that, the tables will be quite informative next Sunday evening, especially in 1A and 1B where some counties could have booked places in the quarter-finals.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1A: CLARE AND WEXFORD CLOSING IN ON KNOCK-OUT PLACES
Saturday (19:00): Tipperary v Wexford, Semple Stadium.
Sunday (14:00): Waterford v Kilkenny, Walsh Park; Clare v Cork, Ennis.
Only two teams are on full points after two rounds of action, Clare and Wexford are closing in on guaranteeing themselves a place in the quarter-finals. Wexford travel to Thurles on Saturday night to take on Tipperary, who have won one of two games.
The counties last met in the Allianz Hurling League in last year’s semi-final when Tipperary won by 5-18 to 1-19 on a day when the McGrath brothers, John and Noel scored 2-2 each for the winners. That was the first Tipp-Wexford clash in the Allianz League since 2011.
With wins over Tipperary and Kilkenny behind them, Clare will be in a confident mood when they host Cork (one win, one defeat) in Ennis on Sunday. Cork beat Clare twice last year, winning the Allianz Hurling Division 1A game by 0-21 to 1-11 before repeating the success (1-25 to 1-20) in the Munster final.
Neither Waterford nor Kilkenny have taken a point so far in this campaign, which makes their clash in Walsh Park very important for both. Waterford are seeking their third successive Allianz League win over Kilkenny, having won by four points in 2016 and by a point last year. Waterford also beat Kilkenny after extra-time (4-23 to 2-22) in last year’s All-Ireland qualifiers.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: GALWAY AND LIMERICK LIVING UP TO FAVOURITES TAG
Saturday (19:00): Limerick v Dublin, Gaelic Grounds; Laois v Antrim, O’Moore Park.
Sunday (14:00): Galway v Offaly, Pearse Stadium
With full points from their first two games, Galway and Limerick lead the way as the campaign heads for Round 3. Limerick will be at home to Dublin (one win, one defeat) on Saturday night in what will be the first Allianz Hurling League clash between the counties since 2016 when the Shannonsiders won a quarter-final by two points. They also met in the 2015 quarter-final when Limerick won by 12 points.
The Shannonsiders have impressed in their games to date while the Dubs will be hoping that they can build on their last-gasp victory over Antrim in their last game.
The game looked to be headed for a draw before Donal Burke converted a long-range free in the seventh minute of added time to give Pat Gilroy's men a one-point victory.
When the counties met the last time in league action it was for the 2016 NHL quarter-final when Limerick emerged 1-21 to 1-19 victors in Parnell Park.
A late, late goal by David Treacy was merely of cosmetic consolation to the Dubs as they trailed by five points deep into injury-time on a frustrating night for Ger Cunningham's side.
Limerick led 0-13 to 0-9 at the interval but Dublin did improve in the second half and drew level by the 14th minute, 0-15 each, of the second period thanks to points from Niall McMorrow, David Treacy (free), Darragh O'Connell, two further Treacy frees and a fine point by David O'Callaghan.
However, the game turned back Limerick's way over the subsequent five minutes. In the 52nd minute David Treacy had his penalty effort saved by Limerick keeper Nickie Quaid and then two minutes later Limerick full-forward Kevin Downes punished some indecision in the backline to fire past Conor Dooley to see the Shannonsiders establish a four-point lead, 1-16 to 0-15.
Over the course of the game Limerick, boosted for this clash by the return of their Na Piarsaigh contingent following their successful All-Ireland club adventure, were the more direct whereas Limerick's wing-back Ronan Lynch did an excellent job in the sweeper role to blunt many long deliveries out of the Dublin defence.
Dublin did open with the first score of the game - a David Treacy free but in the seventh minute Eamonn Dillon's rasping drive was stopped Nickie Quaid. It was a portent of what was to follow as Dublin failed to create many goal chances and as the half wore on Limerick grew in confidence and were full value for their half-time advantage with Shane Dowling contributed five first half points, including four frees.
Eamonn Dillon did strike two impressive first half points for the Dubs but found himself outnumbered by the Limerick defence on several occasions which made for a difficult evening's work for the Dublin attack.
Points on the restart from Niall McMorrow, David Treacy (free) and the pacey Darragh O'Connell from long range lifted Dublin's hopes before a Shane Dowling '65' broke their chain of scores.
But with just over 20 minutes remaining Dublin had drawn level and looked in a good position to strike for victory. But the missed penalty was compounded by Kevin Downes goal in the 54th minute and from then to the finish Dublin were playing catch-up as they relinquished their Parnell Park record which had not seen them defeated in five years in league action in their games at the Donnycarney venue.
SCORERS - Limerick: S Dowling 0-6 (0-4f, 0-1 '65'), K Downes 1-2; D Byrnes 0-3, T Morrissey, B Nash, G O'Mahony 0-2, P Browne, R Lynch (0-1f), J Fitzgibbon, P O'Brien 0-1. Dublin: D Treacy 1-8 (0-8f), N McMorrow 0-4, E Dillon 0-3, D O'Connell 0-2, F McGibb, D O'Callaghan 0-1.
LIMERICK: N Quaid; S O'Brien, R McCarthy, R English; D Byrnes, W McNamara, G O' Mahony; P Browne, J Ryan; R Lynch, B Nash, T Morrissey; G Mulcahy; K Downes, S Dowling. Subs: P O'Brien for McNamara (51), G Hegarty for Mulcahy (53), J Fitzgibbon for Dowling (59), C Lynch for Morrissey (65).
DUBLIN: C Dooley; E O'Donnell, C O'Callaghan, O Gough; J Madden, L Rushe, C Crummey; D O'Connell, J McCaffrey; S McGrath, N McMorrow, D Treacy; D O'Callaghan, F McGibb, E Dillon. Subs: D Plunkett for McGrath (32), M Schutte for McGibb (48), S Barrett for Madden (59), B Quinn for McCaffrey (66), O O'Rourke for O'Callaghan (67).
REF: B Gavin (Offaly).
This Sunday Galway host Offaly in Salthill's Pearse Stadium, having beaten the midlanders easily in the Allianz League and Championship last year. They won the Allianz League clash by 6-23 1-12 and the Leinster semi-final by 0-33 to 1-11.
Offaly have started this year’s Allianz League with an impressive win over Dublin but were well beaten by Limerick in Round 2.
Laois and Antrim, both of whom have lost their first two games, are in relegation trouble as they prepare for their clash on Saturday night. They meet in the Allianz League for the first time since 2015 when Laois won a group game in 1B before repeating the success in a relegation play-off.
HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: TOP TWO IN TRIM SHOWDOWN
Saturday (14:00) Meath v Westmeath, Trim
Sunday (13:00): London v Carlow, McGovern Park
Sunday (14:00): Kildare v Kerry, St Conleth’s Park
The clash of Meath and Westmeath will be the weekend highlight in this group, as both have won their opening two Allianz League games. They are close too in scoring difference (Meath +13 pts; Westmeath +10 pts).
Meath are bidding to achieve successive promotions this year, having won the Allianz Hurling League Division 2B last year. The counties did not meet in last year’s Allianz League but fought out a close encounter in the Leinster championship, which Westmeath won by two points.
Kerry and Carlow (one win from two games each) will be trying to get back in the promotion race when face ‘away’ assignments against the bottom pair, Kildare and London respectively.
HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: DOWN AND MAYO LEADING THE WAY
Sunday (13:00): Wicklow v Donegal, Joule Park, Aughrim Derry v Mayo, Celtic Park, 2.0; Down v Armagh, Ballycran, 2.0
Sunday (14:00): Derry v Mayo, Celtic Park, Down v Armagh, Ballycran
Down lead the way on scoring difference from Mayo after both won their two opening games. The Mourne men will be away to Armagh, who have lost their two opening Allianz League games after dropping down from 2A this year. Derry host Mayo, whom they beat by a point in last year’s Allianz League.
Wicklow and Donegal (one win each from two games) will be trying to stay in the promotion mix when they meet in Aughrim.
HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3A: WARWICKSHIRE LEADING THE WAY
Sunday (13.00): Louth v Warwickshire, Darver
Sunday (14:00): Roscommon v Longford, Dr. Hyde Park, Monaghan v Tyrone, Inniskeen
Warwickshire are bidding to make it three wins from three games as they prepare for the trip to Louth (one win from two) while Roscommon and Monaghan, both whom are on three points have home advantage as they continue their drive for a top two finish.
HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3B: LANCASHIRE MAKE GOOD EARLY PROGRESS
Sunday (13:00): Lancashire v Cavan, Randalstown
Sunday (14:00): Fermanagh v Leitrim, Brewster Park
Wins over Fermanagh and Leitrim have left Lancashire leading the way on four points, one ahead of Sligo and Leitrim. With home advantage on Sunday, Lancashire will be fancied to remain at the head of affairs against Cavan who lost their opening Allianz League game to Sligo by 21 points. Fermanagh are looking for their first win of the Allianz League campaign against a Leitrim team that has won one of two so far.
HURLING LEAGUE 2018: RESULTS & FIXTURES
HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1A
Round 1: Cork 1-24 Kilkenny 0-24; Wexford 2-20 Waterford 0-19; Clare 1-21 Tipperary 0-19.
Round 2: Tipperary 1-20 Waterford 1-11; Clare 2-18 Kilkenny 1-18; Wexford 0-21 Cork 1-14
Round 3: Feb 17: Tipperary v Wexford; Feb 18: Clare v Cork; Waterford v Kilkenny.
Round 4: Feb 25: Kilkenny v Tipperary; Cork v Waterford; Wexford v Clare.
Round 5: Mar 4: Kilkenny v Wexford; Tipperary v Cork; Waterford v Clare.
Relegation play-off: Mar 11
HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1B
Round 1: Offaly 2-25 Dublin 1-15; Galway 1-19 Antrim 1-16; Limerick 1-25 Laois 0-18
Round 2: Galway 2-18 Laois 0-17; Dublin 0-23 Antrim 0-22; Limerick 1-24 Offaly 0-10.
Round 3: Feb 17: Laois v Antrim; Limerick v Dublin; Feb 18: Galway v Offaly.
Round 4: Feb 25: Antrim v Limerick; Dublin v Galway; Offaly v Laois.
Round 5: Mar 4: Galway v Limerick; Laois v Dublin; Offaly v Antrim.
Relegation play-off: Mar 11
HURLING LEAGUE QUARTER-FINALS
Mar 11: First 1A v Fourth 1B; Second 1A v Third 1B; Third 1A v Second 1B; Fourth 1A v First 1B.
HURLING LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS
HURLING LEAGUE FINAL
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2A
Round 1: Westmeath 0-19 Carlow 0-15; Meath 1-17 Kildare 0-17; Kerry 2-30 London 1-13.
Round 2: Meath 1-24 London 1-14; Westmeath 1-20 Kildare 2-11; Carlow 1-18 Kerry 1-11.
Round 3: Feb 18: London v Carlow; Kildare v Kerry, Meath v Westmeath.
Round 4: Feb 25: London v Westmeath; Kerry v Meath; Carlow v Kildare.
Round 5: Mar 4: Westmeath v Kerry; Meath v Carlow; London v Kildare.
Final: Mar 11
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2B
Round 1: Down 2-17 Derry 1-14; Mayo 2-16 Donegal 1-9; Wicklow 4-20 Armagh 1-12.
Round 2: Donegal 4-17 Derry 2-9; Down1-24 Wicklow 0-16; Mayo 3-15 Armagh 2-13.
Round 3: Feb 18: Wicklow v Donegal; Derry v Mayo; Down v Armagh.
Round 4: Feb 25: Derry v Armagh; Donegal v Down; Mayo v Wicklow
Round 5: Mar 4: Armagh v Donegal; Down v Mayo; Wicklow v Derry
Mar 11: Final
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3A
Round 1: Roscommon 3-17 Louth 1-6; Warwickshire 3-16 Tyrone 2-14; Monaghan 0-16 Longford 0-12.
Round 2: Warwickshire 1-14 Longford 0-11; Monaghan 0-16 Roscommon 1-13; Louth 4-12 Tyrone 0-20.
Round 3: Feb 18: Louth v Warwickshire; Roscommon v Longford; Monaghan v Tyrone.
Round 4: Feb 25: Longford v Louth; Warwickshire v Monaghan; Tyrone v Roscommon.
Round 5: Mar 4: Roscommon v Warwickshire; Monaghan v Louth; Longford v Tyrone
Final: Mar 11
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 3B
Round 1: Lancashire 2-25 Fermanagh 1-11; Leitrim 1-9 Sligo 0-8
Round 2: Lancashire 0-15 Leitrim 0-14; Sligo 2-19 Cavan 0-4.
Round 3: Feb 18: Fermanagh v Leitrim; Lancashire v Cavan.
Round 4: Feb 25: Sligo v Lancashire; Cavan v Fermanagh.
Round 5: Mar 4: Leitrim v Cavan; Fermanagh v Sligo
Final: Mar 11