NHL Predictions week 3-Waterford to compound Cats misery

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Tipperary v Wexford, 7 o’clock, Semple Stadium, Saturday

Just like last year, Wexford and Davy Fitzgerald have made an incredible start to the league. It seems almost certain now that the county won’t be relegated from the division, but will that be enough to translate into summer success? The hunch is, that for the third successive season, Davy’s troops might be peaking too soon.

Tipperary struggled in their opener against Clare but really put Waterford to the sword two weeks ago. Last year Wexford had 6 consecutive wins in the league before Michael Ryan’s men brought their charge to a halt. We could see something similar this time.

VERDICT: Tipperary by 3

Waterford v Kilkenny, Walsh Park, Sunday, 2pm

There’s only 2 games gone into the campaign, but this fixture already has the look of a potential relegation play off. How much the managers will be worried about that situation is open to debate. It seems obvious that Derek McGrath,  a la last year, is more focused on getting his charges right for the summer. For Brian Cody meanwhile, the challenge is trying to unearth some young guns capable of performing in the white heat of championship. The evidence so far suggests that without the likes of TJ Reid, Richie Hogan, Colin Fennelly et al, the cats are going to struggle.

If Kilkenny have been unconvincing in their opening couple of league games, at least they’ve been competitive. The Deise on the other hand, have been thoroughly outplayed at times during the opening exchanges. On saying that, with this game be played at home, and with a broadly full squad to choose from, you imagine the pride of the players will be stung into action for this one. That might just be enough.

VERDICT: Waterford by 2

Clare V Cork, Cusack Park Ennis, Sunday, 2pm

It’s a repeat of last year’s Munster final this week in Cusack Park and the banner will be desperate for revenge. Anybody who has seen the first two fixtures of the side will know this one thing to be true: the skill level of the side is up there with anyone else in the country. But their  continued abject shooting (19 wides against Kilkenny) looks bound to be a problem come summer.

Cork have put up creditable performances in their opening fixtures, but there’s still a feeling that there’s a bit more in the tank left to give. Their team still has an unfinished look about it whereas at least with Clare, you’d expect 12 or more of the starting line up to be around come June and July. That, and home advantage, might just be sufficient.

VERDICT: Clare by 3

Division 1B

Limerick v Dublin, Gaelic Grounds Limerick, Saturday, 7pm

The expected “Pat Gilroy hurling revolution” hasn’t really occurred in the capital yet. Their 2 fixtures so far, containing a hammering from Offaly in Croker and an unconvincing defeat of Antrim away, could hardly be viewed as confidence boosting, and there appears an awful lot of work to be done if they are to return to hurling’s top table. Still and all, the footballers were at a pretty low ebb when Gilroy arrived on the scene, and we all know what’s happened there since.

After years in the doldrums of 1B it seems pretty clear that if Limerick finally want to get back into top class hurling in the spring this is the year to do it. Dublin are struggling, Galway are working off the post All-Ireland signs of rust, and there’s a gap in the market for a young, hungry team with a bunch of good forwards (Aaron Gillane, Cian Lynch et al) to take the promotion slot. Saturday night should be another step in the right direction.

VERDICT: Limerick by 6

Laois v Antrim, O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, Saturday 7pm

If there’s any side who could complain that luck wasn’t on their side in the opening 2 league fixtures then Antrim are it. Perhaps Galway were expected to hammer them in their opening league game in Pearse Stadium, but they only scraped home by three. Dublin were tipped to be comfortable winners away a fortnight ago but it was only a last minute free that saw them home.

It’s hard to be positive with zero points on the board, but the glensmen have reason to think they’re progressing. The only problem is, things are unlikely to get that much easier this weekend. Sure, Laois aren’t a top tier side, and have lost both their opening games themselves, but there was reason to believe in their last outing against Galway that they’re taking this competition seriously themselves. Ross King was on fire in that outing, and while it’s bound to be a very competitive game between these two, home advantage may just be enough to see the O’Moore men prevail.

VERDICT: Laois by 2

Galway v Offaly, Pearse Stadium Galway, Sunday, 2pm

One step forward, two steps back. It’s been a tough lot for the last decade an a half to be an Offaly hurling fan, and while that Dublin victory was one glorious day in the sun (in January) you feel the spanking they received against Limerick may actually be a truer reflection of their level. Sure Kevin Martin is working hard, but considering how far back the faithful were, it was unlikely they were ever going to rebuild Rome overnight.

It’s probably lucky then that Galway are not firing on full cylinders themselves. The tribesmen have registered four points on the board already, but neither performance could wholly be described as convincing. Even so, given home advantage, and Offaly’s perilous confidence levels after their last fixture, it’s doubtful they’ll struggle unduly here.

VERDICT: Galway by 7

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