Rebels have the firepower to reach first league final since 2015

Former Limerick star Shane Dowling expects Cork to progress after a tough battle with rivals Kilkenny
Rebels have the firepower to reach first league final since 2015

Cork hurler Conor Lehane scores a point in the 2015 Allianz Hurling League semi-final win over Dublin at Nowlan Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

ALL-IRELAND winner Shane Dowling believes Cork have shown enough in the Allianz National Hurling League so far to get the better of Kilkenny at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night.

The Rebels face their great rivals at 7.15pm on Leeside in the Division 1 semi-final, with the same counties meeting in an U20 challenge match beforehand from 5.15pm as a warm-up.

Given the good weather and good vibes, a crowd in excess of 15,000 is expected to head to the Páirc in a repeat of last year's epic All-Ireland semi-final that went to extra-time.

Waterford and Wexford collide in the second league semi on Sunday afternoon with Cork hoping to return to the decider for the first time since 2015. They haven't actually won the league since 1998, when current selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan was captain, losing finals in 2002, '10, '12 and '15. 

Speaking to BoyleSports, Dowling said the Rebels should too sharp for the Cats.

“A number of weeks ago people, and me included, would have thought Kilkenny looked like they were under a lot of pressure, especially in their opening games. The one that springs to mind straight away is the one against Tipperary in Thurles where it was a very poor encounter. 

“People would have had Kilkenny as maybe the team not to come out of Leinster and now it looks like they will be one of the first teams to come out so it’s gas what a couple of weeks can do.” 

Kilkenny are blooding new hurlers but veterans Pádraig Walsh and Walter Walsh have also been in top form, with TJ Reid yet to return since finishing up the club campaign with Ballyhale Shamrocks.

“They seem to be finding a lot of players and also finding some positions for players that are there for the past number of years. 

I have been very impressed with them in their last two games, and I have always been a huge admirer of Kilkenny. 

"I just love the way they go about their business.”

Cork’s Mark Keane and Wexford’s Jack O’Connor. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Cork’s Mark Keane and Wexford’s Jack O’Connor. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

Kieran Kingston's side lost to Wexford last weekend, having defeated Clare, Limerick, Galway and Offaly already.

“Cork were beaten by Wexford but I wouldn’t look into that a whole pile. It was essentially a dead rubber for them. I don’t see anything other than both teams wanting to go out and win this game. I have been very impressed with Cork in the league so far. 

"They are strong favourites and while I do predict it to be a close game, I think Cork will have too much at the finish.”

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