It has been a hectic Allianz Hurling League campaign so far and now it heads for an end-of-division blitz with key decisions being reached in the final round of group games next Sunday.
By Seán O’Brien
Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
The main focus will be on Division 1, where in addition to deciding on the eight quarter-finalists and the pairings, promotion from 1B and the relegation pairing from 1A will also be settled.
DIVISION 1A: GALWAY AND TIPPERARY IN BATTLE FOR LAST SPOT
Sunday at 2pm: Kilkenny v Dublin, Nowlan Park; Tipperary v Cork, Thurles; Waterford v Galway, Walsh Park.
Dublin, Kilkenny and Waterford, all of whom are on six points, have qualified for the quarter-finals and will be joined by Galway or Tipperary, who are both on three points. Tipperary host Cork in Thurles, having beaten the Rebels by 2-28 to 4-21 in last year’s Allianz Hurling League.
Cork, who have yet to take a point, are already certain to be in a relegation play-off with Tipperary or Galway. If Galway and Tipperary both win, Tipperary will go through to the quarter-finals as they have a 13 point superior scoring difference. That would also tip the scales Tipperary’s way if both draw. If they both lost, Tipperary would have to be beaten by 13 points more than Galway to be relegated. The winner of the Galway/Tipperary game will play Clare or Limerick in the quarter-final while the losers play Cork in the relegation play-off.
Dublin, who currently lead the way on scoring difference from Kilkenny and Waterford, head for Nowlan Park to take on the All-Ireland champions. Dublin won the corresponding fixture last year, the first time in 51 years that they beat Kilkenny in Nowlan Park. Waterford host Galway, a county against whom they have a good Allianz League record, having won in each of the last two years.
DIVISION 1B: CLARE v LIMERICK IN PROMOTION SHOWDOWN
Sunday 2pm: Clare v Limerick, Ennis; Laois v Wexford, Portlaoise; Offaly v Kerry, Tullamore.
Right from the publication of the 2016 fixtures, promotion from 1B looked likely to be decided on the final day when great rivals, Clare and Limerick met in Ennis. And so it will be! With both having won four games, they head for Cusack Park and a winner-take-all promotion showdown.
Both are already guaranteed a place in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 quarter-finals but getting into 1A is also a huge prize. Clare were relegated from 1A last year while Limerick haven’t been in the top tier since 2010. The sides last met in the Allianz Hurling League in the 2012 1B final when Clare won by 0-21 to 1-16. The most recent clash between the counties came last May when Limerick won a Munster quarter-final by 1-19 to 2-15 in Thurles. Limerick have a superior scoring difference to Clare so a draw would be enough for them to secure top spot.
Clare and Limerick will almost certainly be joined in the quarter-finals by Offaly, who are on four points, two ahead of Kerry and Wexford, who are also vying for a quarter-final place. Offaly host Kerry while Wexford will be away to Laois, who have lost all four games so far.
DIVISION 2A: WESTMEATH SECURE A FINAL SPOT
Sunday 2pm: Carlow v Westmeath, Netwatch Cullen Park; Kildare v Derry, Newbridge; London v Antrim, Irish TV Grounds, Ruislip.
Westmeath are guaranteed a place in the final after winning all four games, while Carlow (6pts), London (5pts) and Antrim (4pts) are challenging for the other final slot. Carlow will be at home to Westmeath on Sunday, while Antrim travel to London. Kildare and Derry meet in a bottom-of-the-table clash.
DIVISION 2B: ULSTER PAIR LEAD THE WAY
Sunday: Armagh v Mayo, Athletic Grounds; Down v Meath, Ballycran; Wicklow v Donegal, Arklow
Ulster rivals Down and Armagh lead the table on six points but are only ahead of Mayo on scoring difference heading into the final round. Meath are two points further back on four points. Armagh and Down will have home advantage for their clashes with Mayo and Meath respectively while the bottom pair, Wicklow and Donegal meet in Arklow.
DIVISION 3A: ROSCOMMON GUARANTEED A PLACE IN THE FINAL
Sunday 2pm: Roscommon v Tyrone, Athleague; Louth v Fingal, Darver, Castleblayney; Monaghan v Warwickshire.
Having won all four games, Roscommon have a commanding lead at the top of the table, four points clear of Fingal, Tyrone, Monaghan and Louth, all of whom will be hoping to take the second final spot on Sunday. Fingal (+20 points) have a much superior scoring difference to the rest who are as follows: Tyrone and Monaghan +2 each, Louth -8
DIVISION 3B: ALL FOUR ON SAME POINTS
Sunday 2pm: Leitrim v Fermanagh, Carrick-on-Shannon; Sligo v Longford, Markievicz Park.
All four have won one and lost one of their two games so far, leaving Sunday’s games as the deciders. The two winners will qualify for the final.
Allianz Hurling League Results to date and this weekend’s Fixtures
Allianz Hurling League Division 1A
Round 1: Galway 1-27 Cork 1-21; Tipperary 1-23 Dublin 0-12; Waterford 0-14 Kilkenny 0-10.
Round 2: Dublin 1-17 Galway 0-13; Kilkenny 2-17 Tipperary 0-18; Waterford 0-20 Cork 1-14.
Round 3: Dublin 4-21 Cork 2-17; Kilkenny 0-21 Galway 1-14; Waterford 1-18 Tipperary 1-17.
Round 4: Kilkenny 2-23 Cork 2-22; Galway 2-19 Tipperary1-22; Dublin 0-19 Waterford 0-14
Round 5: March 20: Kilkenny v Dublin; Tipperary v Cork; Waterford v Galway.
Allianz Hurling League Division 1B
Round 1: Clare 2-21 Offaly 0-15; Limerick 2-23 Wexford 0-15; Kerry 1-24 Laois 2-14.
Round 2: Limerick 1-19 Kerry 1-15; Offaly 1-17 Laois 0-15; Clare 0-18 Wexford 1-11.
Round 3: Clare 1-21 Laois 0-16 Wexford 2-25 Kerry 0-8; Limerick 1-19 Offaly 0-14.
Round 4: Limerick 6-29 Laois 1-12; Offaly 2-21 Wexford 3-11; Clare 2-28 Kerry 1-9.
Round 5: March 20: Clare v Limerick; Laois v Wexford; Offaly v Kerry.
Allianz Hurling League Division 2A
Round 1: Antrim 1-21 Derry 2-12; Westmeath 2-16 Louth 0-13; Carlow 2-13 Kildare 0-14.
Round 2: Antrim 3-25 Kildare 3-13; London 5-16 Carlow 1-11; Westmeath 2-11 Derry 0-13.
Round 3: London 1-11 Kildare 0-14; Carlow 2-25 Derry 0-9; Westmeath 2-11 Antrim 0-10
Round 4: Westmeath 0-21 Kildare 0-10; London 0-16 Derry 0-13; Carlow 1-17 Antrim 1-11.
Round 5: March 20: Carlow v Westmeath; Kildare v Derry; London v Antrim.
Allianz Hurling League Division 2B
Round 1: Down 2-16 Armagh 2-14; Mayo 1-14 Donegal 0-13; Meath 0-22 Wicklow 0-13.
Round 2: Armagh 2-14 Donegal 1-8; Down 4-12 Wicklow 0-11; Mayo 0-19 Meath 2-9.
Round 3: Armagh 2-17 Wicklow 2-15; Mayo 0-20 Down 0-16; Meath 2-35 Donegal 0-9.
Round 4: Armagh 0-26 Meath 1-10; Wicklow 2-14 Mayo 0-13; Down 3-22 Donegal 0-14..
Round 5: March 20: Armagh v Mayo; Down v Meath; Wicklow v Donegal.
Allianz Hurling League Division 3A
Round 1: Fingal 4-18 Warwickshire 1-6; Roscommon 1-16 Louth 1-14; Tyrone 2-18 Monaghan 2-13.
Round 2: Louth 2-11 Warwickshire 2-10; Roscommon 1-12 Monaghan 0-10; Fingal 4-10 Tyrone 1-17
Round 3: Tyrone 0-17 Warwickshire 1-12; Monaghan 2-19 Louth 1-12; Roscommon 1-14 Fingal 0-16.
Round 4: Roscommon 1-21 Warwickshire 3-12; Monaghan 3-14 Fingal 1-18; Louth 2-19 Tyrone 2-16.
Round 5: March 20: Louth v Fingal; Monaghan v Warwickshire; Roscommon v Tyrone.
Allianz Hurling League Division 3B
Round 1: Sligo 1-14 Fermanagh 1-9; Longford 3-12 Leitrim 0-13.
Round 2: Fermanagh 3-17 Longford 3-13; Leitrim 3-15 Sligo 2-13.
Round 3: March 20: Leitrim v Fermanagh; Sligo v Longford.