National Hurling League previews: Cork primed to avenge championship loss to Clare

Underage talent beginning to augment formidable Rebels squad while Banner will be without several of their big names in Ennis


Division 1B

Galway v Westmeath, Pearse Stadium, 2.0 – Galway won the corresponding fixture by 24 points last March, a game played in Mullingar. So, what do you do if you are Westmeath? Joe Fortune, to his credit, has shown an ability to get big performances from his players but it is impossible to see anything but a Galway win here. Westmeath’s only league victory last year was a relegation playoff victory over Laois. Henry Shefflin’s men should start their campaign with a straightforward victory. Verdict: Galway

Dublin v Tipperary, Parnell Park, 2.30 [Live on TG4] – Have the Dublin hurlers underachieved in recent years or is that just the level they are at? The feeling among hurling folk in the capital is that there is significant potential within the group, if only they can find some real consistency to their game. And keep key players available. It is a big year for Micheál Donoghue to build something in Dublin. Liam Cahill has named Ronan Maher as Tipperary captain for the season ahead. Cahill will see a positive start in Parnell Park as a possible launch pad for a strong league campaign. Verdict: Tipperary


Division 3A: Sligo v Cavan, Markievicz Park, 2.0

Division 3B: Warwickshire v Leitrim, Páirc na hÉireann, 2.0; Lancashire v Longford, Abbottstown, 1.0.


Division 1A

Offaly v Waterford, Glenisk O’Connor Park, 2.0 – A daunting season ahead for Offaly, whose under-20s lit up the summer last year when reaching the All-Ireland final. Charlie Mitchell has already stepped up and much is expected of Adam Screeney but will there be enough solid citizens like Ben Conneely and captain Jason Sampson to allow the rising talent to bed in at senior? Waterford are already eying this up as part of an ideal schedule: three matches at home and the least experienced team in the division away. David Fitzgerald has to negotiate the season without the gifted Austin Gleeson and others and morale in the county isn’t steeple high. They have enough for this.

Verdict: Waterford

Clare v Cork, Cusack Park, Ennis, 1.45 [Live, TG4] – These counties served up an amazing encounter at the same venue last May with Clare edging it. Brian Lohan has to mend and make do with medium and long-term injuries to Tony Kelly and Ryan Taylor as well as additional rest required for All Stars John Conlon and Shane O’Donnell. Cork are beginning to deploy their recent underage strength and also have players who missed last year due to return: Mark Coleman and one of their top performers at time of injury, Robbie O’Flynn. Clare have to plug their gaps with more than a dozen players involved in Fitzgibbon. Whereas they need to find some more players to strengthen the panel, the short-term impact of too many absentees isn’t great.

Verdict: Cork

Kilkenny v Wexford, UPMC Nowlan Park, 1.45 – Wexford have started the year with a spring in their step, winning the Walsh Cup and responding well to the new management of Keith Rossiter. Most observers thought they were moving the ball more quickly than previously into attack, maybe a sign of coach David Franks’s influence. As ever, Lee Chin is central to realistic ambition and he was excellent last weekend. Kilkenny have some juggling to do, as Derek Lyng seeks to build on last year when they reached both league, provincial and All-Ireland finals. Attack needs attention and it will be interesting to watch what action will be taken there, especially if Adrian Mullen’s future is at centrefield.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Division 1B

Limerick v Antrim, FBD Semple Stadium, 2.0 – This fixture has been moved from Limerick to Thurles as the pitch at the Gaelic Grounds undergoes remedial work. It makes the trip all the shorter for Antrim manager, and Tipperary native, Darren Gleeson – but it is still likely to be a long journey home for Antrim on Sunday night. The Saffrons were competitive in last season’s league for the most part, but they have lost several players for 2024 – not least the retirement of former captain Neil McManus – so it could prove to be a challenging afternoon for the Ulster side in the home of hurling. Verdict: Limerick

Division 2A: Laois v Down, Laois Hire O’Moore Park, 2.0; Meath v Kildare, Páirc Tailteann, 2.0; Kerry v Carlow, Austin Stack Park, 1.0.

Division 2B: Derry v Tyrone, Celtic Park, 1.30; Wicklow v Donegal, Aughrim, 12.30; Roscommon v London, Athleague, 12.30.

Division 3A: Louth v Monaghan, Dowdallshill, 2.0; Mayo v Armagh, Hastings MacHale Park, 1.0.

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Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times