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Big Preview: Allianz Hurling League Round 1

A game-by-game rundown with previews and predictions of the first round of the Allianz Hurling League.

Saturday 26th January

Allianz HL Division 1A Round 1

Tipperary v Clare, Semple Stadium, 7pm – eir sport 1

There’s nothing quite like Saturday night lights in Thurles to get the competitive 2019 hurling season underway. Clare have gone through the pre-season with purpose and will view this as a potential away scalp that is there for the taking. There was widespread jubilation with the ratification of fan favourite Liam Sheedy in recent months, but whether those feelings of optimism hold water will be tested over the next few weeks. The Premier will be determined to get out of Munster this year, and so may be building to peak for May and June. There are question marks over the full-back slot and the media ban being inflicted so early in the year has increased the scrutiny on the squad.

Verdict: Clare

Allianz HL Division 1B Round 1

Dublin v Carlow, Parnell Park, 7pm

The Barrow-siders take their place in the second tier of senior hurling, a remarkable and well-deserved reward for the Joe McDonagh champions of 2018. Though ultimately brought back to reality with a bang by Limerick last season, it was a truly fantastic season for the small but fiercely proud dual county. But they will come face to face immediately with the higher standard in 1B. Dublin look set to be a dangerous animal this year, and Mattie Kenny will be keen to stamp his authority on proceedings early. Unshackled by club involvement in the All-Ireland series, expect a polished and professional performance in Parnell Park.

Verdict: Dublin

Allianz HL Division 2A Round 1

Antrim v Kerry, Corrigan Park, 2pm

Having been relegated from 1B last season, Antrim will seek to prove that they belong at a higher level this time around. It sets up for an excellent spectacle between probably the two heavyweights of the division, with Westmeath the other side who would fancy their chances of gaining promotion. Kerry star Shane Conway gained some notoriety with his six points from play haul in UCC’s victory over UL in the Fitzgibbon Cup at the weekend, and the Saffrons will be without their Ruairi Og Cushendall contingent, but all Antrim teams are a notoriously difficult assignment to overcome at home and should have enough firepower to get themselves off to a good start.

Verdict: Antrim

Allianz HL Division 2B Round 1

Warwickshire v Wicklow, Pairc na hEireann, 3pm

Warwickshire claimed the 3A title in style last year, before losing the Rackard Cup final to Donegal. Wicklow nabbed third spot in this division last year and lost the Christy Ring semi-final to London. It’s a tricky one to predict, but home advantage might see Warwickshire claim their first 2B points.

Verdict: Warwickshire

Down v Derry, Pairc Esler, 5pm

The all-Ulster clash sees two former strongholds battle it out for the spoils. Derry barely survived in the division last year, while Down lost the league final to Mayo. Going on that form, the home side should have enough.

Verdict: Down

Allianz HL Division 3A Round 1

Lancashire v Tyrone, Abbottstown, 2pm

Another newly promoted vs newly relegated clash. Lancashire were desperately unlucky in losing to Sligo by a point in the Lory Meagher final, while Tyrone were defeated in the Rackard semi. The team with 2B experience from last year should, theoretically, have too much.

Verdict: Tyrone

Sunday 27th January

Allianz HL Division 1A Round 1

Kilkenny v Cork, Nowlan Park, 2pm

The top tier of the Allianz Hurling League is always difficult to predict. Kilkenny will be without the Ballyhale representatives, which will make overcoming this vibrant Cork side very difficult. They will be without iconic midfielder Darragh Fitzgibbon, who went off with a nasty knee injury in Charleville’s All-Ireland Intermediate Club Semi-Final victory over Graigue-Ballycallan at the weekend. Kilkenny in Nowlan Park are always a fierce proposition, but one gets the sense that Cork may smell blood and claim the points in this one, but it’ll be down to the wire.

Verdict: Cork

Wexford v Limerick, Innovate Wexford Park, 2pm – TG4 (deferred coverage)

Wexford Park will be rocking on Sunday, despite ticket price increases, as they welcome the All-Ireland champions to town, only a few weeks back from their team holiday in South America. Fitness levels and a passionate home crowd may prove to be the deciding factors as Wexford seek to claim an early scalp before Limerick have properly returned to their groove.

Verdict: Wexford

Allianz HL Division 1B Round 1

Galway v Laois, Pearse Stadium, 12.30pm

Eddie Brennan is tasked with a difficult assignment to open his competitive tenure. Plagued with recent retirements and non-commitment, this will likely be a one-sided affair and Laois will do well to retain their 1B status come the league’s conclusion.

Verdict: Galway

Waterford v Offaly, Semple Stadium, 2pm

Waterford lose home venue rights after breaching the GAA’s foreign training ban last year, but they are equally as comfortable in Semple Stadium. Last season was a real low for Offaly hurling as they were relegated from the Liam McCarthy race. They will struggle against a Déise side looking to prove themselves better than last year.

Verdict: Waterford

Allianz HL Division 2A Round 1

Westmeath v London, TEG Cusack Park, 1pm

Joe Quaid will be looking to begin his competitive tenure with a win and Westmeath could do with one, having endured the misery of losing both league and championship titles to Carlow last season. They should have too much firepower at home for a London side who lost the Christy Ring final in 2018.

Verdict: Westmeath

Mayo v Meath, Tooreen, 2pm

Mayo won 2B last season, but will find the step up in standard a challenge. Meath lost nine games in a row last season and were relegated from the league and Joe McDonagh Cup. They will seek to rectify those wrongs this weekend, and should be able to.

Verdict: Meath

Allianz HL Division 2B Round 1

Donegal v Kildare, Letterkenny, 2pm

Kildare were relegated from 2A last year but claimed the Christy Ring title for 2018 under Joe Quaid, who has moved on to coach Westmeath this season. Donegal won the Nicky Rackard, but the gulf in standard should be too much for them.

Verdict: Kildare

Allianz HL Division 3A Round 1

Louth v Roscommon, Clan na nGael, Dundalk 12.30pm

A potentially close encounter, with Roscommon having the richer tradition. Louth were fortunate to avoid relegation to the Lory Meagher Cup last year, despite almost claiming the 3A title themselves. Roscommon’s league form was poor last season and face a tricky away assignment.

Verdict: Louth

Monaghan v Armagh, Inniskeen, 12.30pm

Armagh were relegated from 2B last season but would be favourites to earn their promotion back. Monaghan will be without the Castleblayney contingent, which will hurt their chances.

Verdict: Armagh

Allianz HL Division 3B Round 1

Cavan v Leitrim, Ballyconnell, 2pm

Beaten 3B finalists in 2018, Leitrim will be seeking to right that wrong this time around. Whether they will have access to their Carrick players, who were defeated at the weekend in the Junior Club Hurling Semi-Final by Castleblayney will play a big part in their success or failure.

Verdict: Leitrim

Sligo v Fermanagh, Sligo GAA COE, 2pm

The 2018 Lory Meagher winners will be confident of claiming victory against the only side to fail to register any competitive win in 2018.

Verdict: Sligo

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