ALL-IRELAND SHC PRELIMINARY ROUND
Saturday: Limerick v Laois, Gaelic Grounds, 7.30pm, (M Wadding, Waterford)
Latest from the medics and the management…Injuries have robbed Limerick of attacking duo Conor Allis and Kevin Downes, and thus manager John Allen has selected the experienced figures of Brian Geary and Niall Moran in the central positions in their forward line. Laois have also made two changes with Dayne Peacock and Willie Dunphy picked in the corner-forward spots which necessitates a positional reshuffle as Conor Dunne and Dave O’Mahoney lose out.
LIMERICK SH: N Quaid (Effin); S Walsh (Glenroe), R McCarthy (Blackrock), T Condon (Knockaderry); W McNamara (Adare), D O’Grady (Granagh/Ballingarry), G O’Mahony (Kilmallock); P Browne (Bruff), J Ryan (Garryspillane); S Dowling (Na Piarsaigh), B Geary (Monaleen), D Breen (Na Piarsaigh); G Mulcahy (Kilmallock), N Moran (Ahane), S Tobin (Murroe-Boher).
LAOIS SH: E Reilly (Abbeyleix); C Coonan (Clough-Ballacolla), D Maher (Clough-Ballacolla), G Burke (Camross); J Walsh (Ballinakill), M Whelan (Borris in Ossory/Kilcotton), M McEvoy (Clough-Ballacolla); B Dunne (The Harps), S Hanlon (Clough-Ballacolla); S Maher (Clough-Ballacolla), T Fitzgerald (Portlaoise), W Hyland (Clough-Ballacolla); D Peacock (Abbeyleix), N Foyle (Borris in Ossory/Kilcotton), W Dunphy (Clough-Ballacolla)
Checking the odds…Limerick are overwhelming favourites at 1/50 with Laois outsiders at 10/1. The handicap of -15 is available on Limerick at 10/11 while Graeme Mulcahy is a decent shout to be anytime goalscorer at 6/5.
Clues from the form guide…Both sides suffered early provincial exits but their moods would have differed as they departed the local scene. They may have coughed up a seven-point advantage during the second-half yet there was plenty for Limerick to be encouraged about in their Munster quarter-final against Limerick. In contrast it’s been a miserable season to date for Laois as they suffered relegation from Division 1B in the league and despite displaying good from in their Leinster opener against Carlow, they were then thumped by 22 points by Dublin.
The game breakers are…Laois will be hoping to harness the enthusiasm generated by their U21′s progression to the Leinster final with Gearoid Burke, Stephen Maher, Neil Foyle and Willie Dunphy all having featured for the underage side in that semi-final win during the week. In addition Willie Hyland is a lethal attacker that needs to be policed. But Limerick have several weapons in reserve like the diligence of Tom Condon, resolve of Wayne McNamara, class of Shane Dowling and the pace of Mulcahy.
Gazing into the crystal ball…When Laois ventured into the qualifiers last year, they were on the receiving end of a hiding against Cork as they shipped 10 goals and crashed to a 34-point loss. Their prospects do not look brighter on this occasion and if Limerick have the correct attitude, they can prosper on home soil and rack up a decent score.
Saturday: Wexford v Westmeath, Wexford Park, 7.30pm, (C Lyons, Cork)
Latest from the medics and the management…Both Wexford manager Liam Dunne and his Westmeath counterpart Brian Hanley have kept faith with the sides that started in their Leinster championship defeats to Offaly and Galway respectively. Paul Morris has shaken off an injury to start for Wexford while the U21 trio of Willie Deveraux, Matthew O’Hanlon and Jack Guiney all emerged unscathed from their clash during the week with Kilkenny.
WEXFORD SH: E Martin (Sarsfields, Cork); W Deveraux (St Martin’s), K Rossiter (Oulart-the-Ballagh), D Redmond (St Martin’s); D Redmond (Oulart-the-Ballagh), M O’Hanlon (St James), C Kenny (Buffers Alley); S Murphy (Oulart-the-Ballagh), D Lyng (St Martin’s); G Sinnott (Oulart-the-Ballagh), E Quigley (Sarsfields, Cork), PJ Nolan (Askamore-Kilrush); R Jacob (Oulart-the-Ballagh), J Guiney (Rathnure), P Morris (Ferns).
WESTMEATH SH: S McGovern (Crookedwood); C Jordan (Raharney), A Price (Clonkill), P Fennell (Castletown-Geoghegan); P Dowdall (Clonkill), A McGrath (Clonkill), P Greville (Raharney); A Clarke (Castletown-Geoghegan), J Clarke (Castletown-Geoghegan); B Murtagh (Clonkill), F Boyle (Raharney), R Greville (Raharney); N O’Brien (Castletown-Geoghegan), J Shaw (Raharney), E Price (Clonkill).
Checking the odds… Wexford are strong favourites at 1/16 with Westmeath ranked outsiders at 15/2. The handicap betting sees Wexford -8 at 10/11 and given his good goal-scoring form of late, Jack Guiney is good value at 9/2 for first goalscorer.
Clues from the form guide… Westmeath should be pleased with how their Leinster championship campaign unfolded as they claimed a surprising success over Antrim and gave a fine account of themselves against Galway. Wexford may have lost out by two points against Offaly but that narrow defeat was largely down to a late fightback after a hitherto sluggish performance.
The game breakers are… Paul Greville and Brendan Murtagh supply important experience for Westmeath while minor sensation Niall O’Brien, who struck 2-7 against Galway, has generated great excitement since bursting onto the scene. How Wexford try to thwart him will be significant given the problems they faced in stifling Offaly’s Shane Dooley in their last encounter. The Model County have an emerging talent of their own in Guiney and given that himself, Rory Jacob and Paul Morris fired 1-9 between them against Offaly, there is potential in that full-forward line.
Gazing into the crystal ball…If this game was in Mullingar, then the prospect of an upset could be envisaged as Westmeath would surely have been buoyed by home advantage and their progressive form. Yet whatever nerves are in the Wexford setup should be eased by the fact that they are at home and they have the wherewithal to fashion a winning performance.