Paul Murphy and Kilkenny will be hoping to earn their first league win of the season against Cork on Sunday. Photo: Pat Moore
The pace is picking up in the Allianz Hurling League with counties gunning for points for very different reasons next weekend.
Five points were enough to secure a quarter-final place in Division 1A of last year’s Allianz Hurling League so Tipperary, currently on four points, could become the first team in the group to clinch a last eight place if they beat Clare on Sunday.
At the other end of the scale, Galway faced a relegation play-off (which they lost to Cork) after picking up four points last year, something that will be noted by Kilkenny, who have lost their first two games. Brian Cody’s men will be hoping to buck that trend when they host Cork in Nowlan Park on Sunday.
Four points earned Wexford and Offaly quarter-final berths from 1B last year so Wexford (two wins so far) may have done enough already to reach the knock-out stages.
However, having beaten Limerick and Galway, Wexford are determined to take the sole promotion slot and return to the top flight.
DIVISION 1A: FIRST v SECOND IN SEMPLE STADIUM
Saturday: Dublin v Waterford, Croke Park, 5pm.
Sunday: Kilkenny v Cork, Nowlan Park, 2pm. Tipperary v Clare, Semple Stadium, 3pm.
Kilkenny find themselves in an unusual position at the bottom of the table after losing to Waterford and Clare. They beat Cork, who have won one and lost one, by a point in last year’s League clash.
Tipperary, who are unbeaten since losing to Clare in the Allianz Hurling League quarter-final last April, are top of the 1A table after beating Dublin and Waterford and now have their first home game of the campaign against Clare, who are second, ahead of Cork, Waterford and Dublin on scoring difference.
Tipperary have a points differential of +22, by far the best in the group. Clare, who lost to Cork and beat Kilkenny, will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s quarter-final when they beat Tipperary 2-13 to 0-18.
Dublin and Waterford meet in the opening game of the Croke Park double header on Saturday at 5pm (Dublin footballers play Mayo at 7pm), with both having won one and lost one of two games. Dublin beat Waterford by five points in last year’s League.
DIVISION 1B: WEXFORD IN PRIME POSITION FOR PROMOTION PUSH
Saturday: Limerick v Offaly, Gaelic Grounds, 5pm.
Sunday: Galway v Laois, Pearse Stadium, 2pm. Wexford v Kerry, Innovate Wexford Park, 2pm.
Having beaten Limerick and Galway, the two pre-season favourites to lead the promotion charge, Wexford are primed for a big drive towards 1A. The next step takes Davy Fitzgerald’s men up against Kerry (one win, one defeat). Wexford were easy winners over Kerry last year, winning by 2-25 to 0-8.
Galway and Limerick, second and third respectively on scoring difference, will be seeking to get back on promotion track, while hoping that Wexford are beaten, when they play home games against Laois and Offaly.
Galway’s last competitive clash with Laois was in the 2015 Leinster championship, which they won by 3-28 to 1-14. Limerick beat Offaly by eight points in last year’s League.
DIVISION 2A: KILDARE SET PACE AHEAD OF ANTRIM AND CARLOW
Sunday: Carlow v London, Netwatch Cullen Park, 1pm. Westmeath v Armagh, TEG Cusack Park, 2pm. Antrim v Kildare, Ballycastle, 2pm.
Joe Quaid’s Kildare have made the perfect start to the League, winning their first two games, but now face a tough away assignment against Antrim, who are just a point behind them after a win and a draw. Antrim beat Kildare by 12 points in last year’s League.
Like Antrim, Carlow are on three points, leaving Colm Bonnar’s men well-positioned for a promotion bid. They host London (one point from four points), and will be extremely wary of the exiles, who beat them by 17 points in last year’s League.
The third game features Westmeath (two defeats) against Armagh (one defeat one draw). Westmeath are bottom of the table, which is in marked contrast to last year when they won four of five group games before beating Carlow in the final.
DIVISION 2B: LEINSTER PAIR LEAD THE WAY
Sunday: Derry v Wicklow, Celtic Park, 12.30pm. Roscommon v Meath, Athleague, 12.30pm. Mayo v Down, Elverys MacHale Park, 2pm.
Leinster duo, Meath and Wicklow are both on full points after two games but both will be ‘away’ in Round 3 against Roscommon and Derry respectively.
Roscommon, who were promoted from 3A this year, have found the going tough in the higher grouping and will certainly be tested by a Royal outfit that has scored a total of 6-40 in two games.
Wicklow have scored 4-34 in their two wins while Derry, who are third on the table on scoring difference, scored 1-30 in their two opening games. Mayo, who like Roscommon have lost their first two games, host Down who have won one and lost one. Mayo beat Down by four points last year.
DIVISION 3A: MONAGHAN ZOOM TO THE TOP OF THE TABLE
Sunday: Monaghan v Louth, Iniskeen 2pm. Donegal v Tyrone, Letterkenny, 2pm.
Monaghan are four points clear at the top of the table, having won all three games so far, while Louth are at the bottom, having lost all three. Monaghan beat Louth by ten points last year.
Donegal and Tyrone are both on two points but have a game in hand on the other two as their tie was called off on Sunday due to a waterlogged pitch.
DIVISION 3B: WARWICKSHIRE AND LONGFORD ON FULL POINTS
Sunday: Sligo v Fermanagh, Markievicz Park, 12.30pm. Warwickshire v Leitrim, Pairc na hEireann, 2pm.
Warwickshire and Longford have full points after two games each, while Sligo, Leitrim and Fermanagh are still seeking their first points. Longford are not playing next weekend so Warwickshire have an opportunity to go clear at the top when they host Leitrim.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE 2017: RESULTS AND FIXTURES
Round 1: Cork 0-21 Clare 1-11; Tipperary 1-24 Dublin 1-8; Waterford 1-15 Kilkenny 0-17.
Round 2: Dublin 2-19 Cork 1-14; Clare 2-19 Kilkenny 0-12; Tipperary 1-18 Waterford 0-15.
Round 3: Mar 4: Dublin v Waterford; Mar 5: Kilkenny v Cork; Tipperary v Clare.
Round 4: Mar 11: Tipperary v Kilkenny; Mar 12: Clare v Dublin; Waterford v Cork.
Round 5: Mar 26: Cork v Tipperary; Clare v Waterford; Dublin v Kilkenny
Round 1: Kerry 3-14 Laois 0-19; Galway 6-23 Offaly 1-12; Wexford 1-14 Limerick 0-14.
Round 2: Laois 1-26 Offaly 1-20; Wexford 1-21 Galway 3-13; Limerick 6-21 Kerry 3-8.
Round 3: Mar 4: Limerick v Offaly; Mar 5: Galway v Laois; Wexford v Kerry
Round 4: Mar 11: Laois v Limerick; Mar 12: Offaly v Wexford; Kerry v Galway.
Round 5: Mar 26: Kerry v Offaly; Wexford v Laois; Limerick v Galway.
Apr 1 /2: 1st 1A v 4th 1B; 2nd 1A v 3rd 1B; 3rd 1A v 2nd 1B; 4th 1A v 1st 1B
Round 1: Antrim 0-20 London 0-13; Kildare 1-18 Armagh 1-15; Carlow 1-13 Westmeath 1-11.
Round 2: Antrim 2-15 Carlow 0-21; Kildare 1-16 Westmeath 0-14; Armagh 1-13 London 1-13.
Round 3: Mar 5: Carlow v London; Westmeath v Armagh; Antrim v Kildare.
Round 4: Mar 12: Westmeath v London; Armagh v Antrim; Kildare v Carlow.
Round 5: Mar 26: Kildare v London; Antrim v Westmeath; Carlow v Armagh.
Final: Apr 1 /2: 1st v 2nd
Round 1: Derry 1-14 Mayo 1-13; Meath 4-21 Down 1-10; Wicklow 2-17 Roscommon 0-7.
Round 2: Down 1-21 Roscommon 1-16; Meath 2-19 Derry 0-16; Wicklow 2-17 Mayo 1-17.
Round 3: Mar 5: Roscommon v Meath; Derry v Wicklow; Mayo v Down.
Round 4: Mar 12: Derry v Roscommon; Wicklow v Down; Mayo v Meath.
Round 5: Mar 26: Down v Derry; Roscommon v Mayo; Meath v Wicklow.
Final: Apr 1 /2: 1s v 2nd
Round 1: Donegal 2-23 Louth 1-14; Monaghan 3-15 Tyrone 1-11.
Round 2: Next Sunday: Monaghan 1-21Donegal 3-14; Tyrone 5-16 Louth 0-12
Round 3: Feb 26: Tyrone v Donegal postponed; Monaghan 1-10 Louth 1-8.
Round 4: Mar 5: Monaghan v Louth; Donegal v Tyrone
Round 5: Mar 12: Donegal v Monaghan; Tyrone v Louth.
Round 6: Louth v Donegal; Monaghan v Tyrone.
Final: Apr 1 /2: 1st v 2nd
Round 1: Warwickshire 3-9 Sligo 3-8; Longford 2-13 Fermanagh 0-7
Round 2: Warwickshire 2-12 Fermanagh 1-9; Longford 2-19 Leitrim 3-13.
Round 3: Mar 5: Sligo v Fermanagh; Warwickshire v Leitrim
Round 4: Mar 12: Leitrim v Sligo; Longford v Warwickshire.
Round 5: Mar 26: Fermanagh v Leitrim; Sligo v Longford.
Final: Apr 1 /2: 1st v 2nd