It's 'only the league' but the hurlers could do with a win against Wexford

It's 'only the league' but the hurlers could do with a win against Wexford
Cork's Declan Dalton with Huw Lawlor and Enda Morrissey of Kilkenny. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

WHEN you lose your opening game in any competition there’s a little added pressure going into your second.

It’s not the end of the world and, in fact, Kilkenny lost their two openers in the NHL last season and subsequently went on to win the trophy afterwards.

However, no team manager wants to have back to back losses early in the season and you can be certain sure that John Meyler, Donal Moloney and Davy Fitzgerald will want to get points on the board this weekend.

It’s a well-documented fact, of course, that the situation in the secondary competition is not as acute this season because there’s no relegation for the McCarthy Cup teams.

In fact, the only issue to be resolved in Division 1B is which one from Offaly, Laois and Carlow will be relegated to Division 2A. One of them, in all probability, is going to finish last in Division 1B.

Cork are home to Wexford on Sunday, Clare have home advantage against Kilkenny while Limerick host Tipperary on Saturday night in a game that is likely to generate the biggest attendance of the weekend.

The fact that both of them won their opening game adds further spice to what should be a great occasion on the Ennis Road.

Of course, this is also not their first meeting of the new season as they met in the Munster League when Tipper prevailed. That game is hardly a footnote in the overall scheme of things now and will mean absolutely nothing here.

Limerick had a splendid win in Wexford Park last Sunday, probably one of the most difficult away venues for any side to get something out of. Davy Fitz is a manager who despises losing any game, irrespective of its status and if it was a game of Scrabble he’d want to win it.

Wexford's Liam Óg McGovern reacts to a missed chance. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Wexford's Liam Óg McGovern reacts to a missed chance. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

On the other side, John Kiely would have been delighted to come out of Wexford Park with the two points because Limerick are still a little further behind some of the other counties in the pre-season training schedule.

Tipp came good in Thurles last Saturday night when it mattered although it must be stressed that the sending off (harsh to be said) of Tony Kelly had an impact on the proceedings.

Seamus Callanan, in his first game as Tipp’s new captain, was not a huge influence on matters until out of the blue he struck for a brace of goals which effectively finished the game as a contest.

But then again, that’s what players like Callanan do, they can be peripheral figures for long stretches before turning up to turn a game on its head.

Seamus Callanan is fouled by Jason McCarthy to win a penalty. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Seamus Callanan is fouled by Jason McCarthy to win a penalty. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Liam Sheedy wasn’t happy with the concession of four goals against Limerick in the Munster League final but the performance of Pádraic Maher at full-back last Saturday night would have pleased him quite a lot.

Tipp have had problems in the number three shirt for a while now but maybe Maher is about to fit the bill.

Staying with full-backs, Damien Cahalane did nothing wrong in Nowlan Park last Sunday and in a line that was under pressure at times, he was one of the better Cork players on duty on the day.

Twelve months ago Clare inflicted a second league defeat on Kilkenny after their earlier loss to Cork and now the sides collide again in Cusack Park next Sunday.

Clare were one of the sides mentioned as contenders for the league title and maybe they still will be but it’s nearly imperative that they put points on the board here.

Kilkenny were very composed in their win over Cork and without admitting it, Brian Cody will have been delighted with the performance.

The were far more positives for him on the day than there were for Cork.

And it was a win without a number of the best players in the country, TJ Reid, Walter Walsh, Richie Hogan, Cillian Buckley and Padraig Walsh to mention just a few.

For all the managers, the priority is to bolster their squads although Limerick’s look the strongest right now.

It’s still very early in the season, of course, but any newcomers in any of the squads will want to start making their move now.

Given that there is no relegation you would expect all the counties to have changes to their starting 15s this weekend.

And for the newcomers, it’s time to start showing what they are capable of if they want to be around in the Summer.

Seán O’Donoghue after the loss to Kilkenny. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Seán O’Donoghue after the loss to Kilkenny. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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