Kilkenny have made the first big statement of the 2020 hurling season by ensuring that they will either win, or share, the Division 1 Allianz League title.
Four wins from four games has guaranteed that they will top Group B, irrespective of how they fare against Clare in the final round next weekend. If they play the Group A winners (Galway, Cork, Tipperary) in the All-Ireland championship, it will double up as the Division 1 final, something TJ Reid finds strange. If they don’t, the title will be shared with the top team in Group A.
Galway, Tipperary (both on six points) and Cork (five points) are in contention to head Group A.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1 GROUP A: THREE IN CONTENTION FOR TOP SPOT
Sunday (1.45): Cork v Galway, Pairc Ui Chaoimh; Westmeath v Limerick, TEG Cusack Park; Waterford v Tipperary, Walsh Park.
Galway head the table on scoring difference from Tipperary as they prepare to take on Cork in the final round. If Galway and Tipperary (v Waterford) win, the Premier will finish top of the table, having beaten the Tribesmen in the head-to-head contest.
If Cork win and Tipperary lose, Cork will head the table and stay in contention to take the title for the first time since 1998.
Galway beat Cork by five points in last year’s League (2-18 to 1-16); Tipperary beat Waterford (0-24 to 2-16); Limerick beat Westmeath 1-24 to 0-18.
Westmeath have lost their four games to date by an average of 22 points.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1 GROUP B: CAN CLARE END KILKENNY’S POWERFUL RUN?
Saturday (3.0): Antrim v Laois, Corrigan Park; Clare v Kilkenny, Ennis; Wexford v Dublin Chadwicks Wexford Park.
Kilkenny have been very much the form team in this group, winning all four games and giving themselves an unassailable three-point lead ahead of Wexford at the top of the table. Laois, who have lost all four games, will finish bottom of the table and face Westmeath in a relegation play-off.
First, Laois must travel to Belfast to take on Antrim, who have enjoyed a productive return to Division 1, winning one (v Clare) and drawing one (v Wexford). It will be the first League meeting between Laois and Antrim since 2018 when the midlanders won a 1B group game by five points and a relegation play-off by two points.
Wexford (5), Clare (4), Dublin (4) are all bidding to finish second to Kilkenny. Wexford host Dublin, whom they beat by two points last year. Clare and Kilkenny drew in last year’s League.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: OFFALY CLINCH PROMOTION IN FIRST FOUR GAMES
Sunday (1.0): Wicklow v Offaly, Aughrim; Down v Meath, Ballycran; Carlow v Kerry, Netwatch Cullen Park.
Offaly will return to Division 1 next season, having secured promotion with four wins in their first four games. Kerry have won three of four but even if they beat Carlow and Wicklow beat Offaly next Sunday, it won’t be enough to stop Michael Fennelly’s men from taking top spot as they beat the Kingdom in the head-to-head contest. Wicklow (four defeats), who lost to Offaly by 21 points last year, will be relegated.
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: MAYO AND KILDARE IN PROMOTION SHOOT-OUT
Saturday (2.0): Mayo v Kildare, Elverys MacHale Park; Derry v Roscommon, Celtic Park
Kildare lead the way on six points, two ahead of Mayo, going into the final round, where they meet on Saturday. A draw would be enough to secure promotion for Kildare but if Mayo win, they will take the precious top spot on the head-to-head result. Kildare finished third in 2B last year while Mayo were relegated from 2A.