The Allianz Hurling League began last weekend and, just like the football a week before, the reigning All Ireland kingpins were left stunned by a comeback.
Limerick led Munster rivals Cork by as many as seven points at one stage inside Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday evening but it was the Rebels that finished strongly to record a one-point win.
John Kiely’s side face free-scoring Clare on Saturday evening in round two, while the clash of Kilkenny and Tipperary is the standout game on Sunday afternoon ahead of Antrim’s visit to Dublin.
- Tipperary to beat Kilkenny
- Limerick to beat Clare
- Antrim to beat Dublin
Tipp can rise to Nowlan Park challenge
– Live on TG4
Sunday’s marquee game sees arch-rivals Kilkenny and Tipperary drawing swords at Nowlan Park and the visitors have every right to fancy their chances.
Both traditional powerhouses can be viewed as having entered a period of transition but, of course, given their unquenchable thirst for hurling success, it shouldn’t take them long to come out the other side.
Last Saturday night’s 20-point destruction of Laois was an impressive start to the league for Tipp boss Liam Cahill and suggests his side are well forward in their early season work.
Ronan Maher cut a key figure at centre back, while Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher was a destructive force further up the field.
Earlier in the day, Derek Lyng enjoyed a winning start to his first Allianz Hurling League campaign as Kilkenny manager, but his side had to work hard to get by Antrim in Belfast.
Billy Drennan top-scored with 1-08 for the Cats, now without legendary boss Brian Cody for the first time in a quarter of a century.
The game was in the balance right until the final five minutes and Kilkenny will have to step forward to overcome Tipp this weekend, especially as there were plenty of signs last weekend that their new style of play will require some bedding in. They got away with it to a degree against Antrim, a liberty Tipp aren’t likely to afford them.
Limerick won’t repeat mistakes of 2022
– Live on RTE2
Ultimately their visit to Leeside last weekend ended in defeat, but it wasn’t all bad for Limerick against a hungry home side.
In 2022, Limerick won only one league game out of five, before finding their groove come the championship, where eventually they completed a hat-trick of All-Ireland titles.
Declan Hannon was a bright spot for Limerick last weekend and manager John Kiely won’t be keen on the idea of more defeats following.
The battle in Pairc Ui Chaoimh had an edge to it, whereas this weekend’s opponents Clare were dismantling Westmeath in Ennis, racking up a tally of 4-27 in a 25-point victory that proved little more than a training exercise.
With a good outing under them, Limerick should come on and they make home advantage count at the Gaelic Grounds in Saturday’s standout game.
Antrim can be a match for Dubs
– Live on TG4
Dublin picked up a draw on the road last weekend against Waterford, while Antrim engaged in that battle with Kilkenny in Belfast.
The Dubs will have regrets, given they enjoyed a two-man advantage for a decent portion of the second half and yet they were the side that relied on two stoppage time points in Dungarvan to secure a share of the spoils.
Conditions at Corrigan Park didn’t help Antrim or the Cats in their opener and Darren Gleeson felt his side were at fault with a number of unforced errors.
Still, there was enough to work on to suggest that the Northerners will prove stubborn opposition in their league campaign and they can probably land a win or two. They head for Parnell Park in week two and are capable of an upset against Dublin if they can keep that error count down.