The Leinster Senior Hurling Championship semi-finals take place this weekend, with two mouth- watering ties in store for hurling fans.
The first game of the afternoon sees Brian Cody’s Kilkenny take on a Dublin side who will have aspirations of a first Leinster title in seven years.
The Cats begin their championship campaign looking to avenge last year’s bitterly disappointing All-Ireland final defeat to Tipperary. Brian Cody’s men will start the game on Saturday as firm favourites to advance to the decider on November 14. In a long and hugely successful tenure, Kilkenny boss Cody probably thought that he had seen everything hurling has to offer, but for the first time in his near 22 years in charge of the team, no supporters will be allowed into Croke Park for Saturday’s game due to Covid-19 restrictions in place.
TJ Reid will once again be Kilkenny’s talisman and his mere presence alone means Dublin will be clear underdogs for this weekend’s encounter. Cody will feel that if Kilkenny can maintain the same performance level as they reached in last year’s famous All-Ireland semi-final victory over Limerick for the duration of this year’s championship, Kilkenny’s first All-Ireland title since 2015 will be a realistic prospect come December.
Dublin come into this game on the back of an impressive victory over Laois in last week’s quarter-final. Mattie Kenny will be hoping that Dublin can improve on last year’s third-place finish in the round-robin phase and make their first appearance in the provincial decider since 2014. Kenny’s troops will feel as though last week’s win over Laois and the additional benefit of having a game under their belt will give them a match sharpness from the start that Kilkenny may not have once the ball is thrown in.
Having underperformed for the last half of the decade, Dublin will want to begin this clash by making a statement through defeating one of hurling’s traditional powerhouses on Saturday. However, Kilkenny will leave Croke Park disappointed and underwhelmed with anything other than a win on Saturday and should have enough to make next month’s final.
You can catch the game live on KCLR’s Saturday Scoreline from 3.45pm with thanks to Laharts the home of Volkswagen and Skoda in Kilkenny
Verdict: Kilkenny win
The second part of Saturday’s double-header sees a repeat of the 2017 final when Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford begin the defence of their crown against a Galway side managed by Shane O’Neill for the first time in a championship fixture.
Both begin the 2020 championship on the back of disappointing exits from last year’s competition. Wexford were minutes away from a first All-Ireland final appearance since 1996 only to be hauled back and eventually defeated by 14-man Tipperary. Fitzgerald will hope that Wexford will be able to repeat last year’s feat of winning the Leinster championship and improve on their showing in the All-Ireland series.
It remains to be seen whether Wexford missed their chance at the Liam McCarthy Cup in 2019 or if they are good enough to go again. Anything less than at least another All-Ireland semi-final appearance could see Fitzgerlad’s time in charge come to an end.
Galway enter the semi-final stage under new guidance in the form of Shane O’Neill. The Tribesmen will be desperate to regain the Leinster crown that they failed to reclaim last year following a fourth-place finish in the round-robin phase. The former Na Piarsaigh manager’s introduction to inter-county hurling has come later than expected but he may well be the fresh voice needed to help Galway reach the heights of their 2017 All-Ireland winning campaign.
Portumna man Joe Canning will once again begin the campaign as Galway’s go to man and much like Reid for Kilkenny, the fact that he is on the pitch gives Galway a scoring firepower and leadership that their opponent’s may struggle to match. The Tribesmen have their eyes firmly set on an All-Ireland victory and Saturday may well be the beginning of their journey back to the top.
Verdict: Galway win