This weekend we have the last round of the National Football Leagues and the semi-finals of the Division 1 National Hurling Leagues to look forward to.
This week the two featured games are Sunday’s hurling semi-finals double header in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny. Remarkably three Division 1B sides will take part, with only one Division 1A team in Limerick, making it to this stage.
In the first game, All-Ireland Champions Limerick clash with Dublin. This game will be shown live on TG4 at 1:30pm.
Following this at 3:30pm, Galway face Waterford for the second time in this year’s league, a contest that will also be televised on TG4.
NHL Division Semi-Final – Limerick v Dublin (Throw-in @ 1:30pm, live on TG4, on 24/03):
Dublin had a fantastic result last weekend when they went down to Semple Stadium and stunned Tipperary by beating them by a single point. This was Dublin’s first competitive win over the Premier County in Tipperary since 1946, which shows how big of a win this was.
They face another huge test this Sunday when they face a Limerick team who cruised past Laois in their quarter-final a few weeks ago.
Mattie Kenny has this Dublin team going very well indeed. He has brought in the Cuala running game where players are running off the shoulder at pace, a lot like what you would see in football. Tipp really struggled against this style of play last Saturday.
Dublin will be looking for huge performances again from the likes of Eamonn Dillon, Danny Sutcliffe and Oisín O’Rorke if they are to get close to this excellent Limerick side, but they will certainly go into this contest with loads of confidence after last week.
In truth, Limerick weren’t tested at all in their quarter-final so they could come into this a little cold, compared to the opposition who will be buzzing after last week. Having said this, I can still only see a Limerick win here. They have really carried on their brilliant form from last year.
For the Treaty, you can expect strong perfromaces again from the likes of Cian Lynch, Gearoid Hegarty, Kyle Hayes and sharp-shooter forward Aaron Gillane amongst others. They have talented powerful players all over the field and if they perform in Nowlan Park on Sunday, I can see them covering the -5 Handicap against this spirited Dublin side.
Verdict: Limerick -5 (Handicap Betting) @ 10/11
NHL Division Semi-Final – Galway v Waterford (Throw-in @ 3:30pm, live on TG4, on 24/03):
Galway will be keen on revenge on Sunday when they get a second crack at the Waterford team that beat them just a fortnight ago.
Down in Walsh Park in Waterford that day, Galway led at half-time by ten points and looked in complete control. Only for the Déise to stage an outstanding comeback in the second-half, which was capped off by Shane Bennett’s injury-time winning goal.
I would imagine that Micheál Donoghue’s charges are delighted to be meeting Waterford again after their collapse a few weeks ago. It’s a big opportunity for them to put things right heading into the championship.
It certainly won’t be easy for Galway this weekend though as Waterford really seem to firing on all cylinders at the moment. They scored an incredible 31 points last Saturday in a comprehensive quarter-final victory over Munster rivals Clare.
Watch the GAANOW Full-Time Highlights as Waterford have beaten Clare in the Allianz Leagues! pic.twitter.com/IUZVuEUvVX
— The GAA (@officialgaa) March 16, 2019
Galway to their credit had an impressive quarter-final victory of their own as they dispatched Wexford by ten points. The sublime Joe Canning ended the games with a quite ridiculous 15 points. On top of Canning’s inspirational performance, second-half goals from Cathal Mannion, Niall Burke and Tadhg Haran helped the Tribesmen pull away from the Slaneysiders.
Galway will again be looking to the likes of Joe Canning, Gearoid McInerney, Conor Whelan and the Mannion brothers, Padraic and Cathal, to come to the fore again this Sunday.
For Waterford, they will need big performances from Austin Gleeson, Jamie Barron and the Bennett brothers, Stephen and Shane, if they are to turn Galway over for the second time in a couple of weeks. Pauric Mahony has returned to the Déise forward-line in recent weeks after his clubs exploits with Ballygunner, so he will be another player that the Galway backs will need to keep their eye on.
This could be a close-run thing, but I fancy Galway to redeem themselves and get their revenge from Waterford’s excellent turnaround last time these two met.
Verdict: Galway @ 4/5
Tipperary v Clare Verdict: Clare +3 (Handicap Betting) @ 8/13
Meath v Fermanagh Verdict: Meath -2 (Handicap Betting) @ 21/20
Armagh v Cork Verdict: Armagh @ 8/15
Donegal v Kildare Verdict: Donegal @ 1/2
Leitrim v Waterford Verdict: Leitrim -3 (Handicap Betting) @ Evens
Derry v Wexford Verdict: Derry -4 (Handicap Betting) @ 10/11
Wicklow v London Verdict: Wicklow @ 1/3
Limerick v Antrim Verdict: Antrim @ 8/11