Great weekend of hurling in store

Saturday, July 1st
All-Ireland SHC Qualifier Round
Dublin v Laois, Parnell Park, 7pm
Parnell Park is the venue and Laois hit the capital tomorrow looking for their first championship win over the Dublin since their 2005 Leinster SHC quarter-final victory.
Dublin hurling has come on a lot since then with victories in 2010, 2012 and 2015.
Cunningham has talked up his side’s opponents ahead of this one, having been impressed by their victory over Carlow the last day, while the Cork man also confirmed that Cian Boland and Dara O’Connell are both out for his side with long-term injuries.
Cuala defender Oisin Gough is also on the list of casualties for the hosts, while Laois have been dealt a more severe set-back this week with the news that ace attacker Stephen Maher suffered cruciate knee ligament damage in the one-point win over the Barrowsiders.
Add to that the fact that top scorer Ross King will serve a one-match ban this weekend and Eamonn Kelly’s side look to be quite limited in their attack going into this one.

Kilkenny v Limerick, Nowlan Park, 7pm
The pick of this Saturday’s qualifiers and one that could see Kilkenny make an unlikely exit from the 2017 Liam McCarthy Cup race.
The last championship meeting between the Cats and Limerick didn’t see much separating the two of them in the end, with Brian Cody’s men advancing into the 2014 All-Ireland final after a hard fought 2-13 to 0-17 victory at Croke Park in what was awful conditions for hurling.
The Shannonsiders last championship win over the Leinster kingpins came in the 1973 decider and they will hope to end the 44-year wait in their counterparts’ back yard this weekend.
John Kiely is said to be sweating on the fitness of vice captains Diarmaid Byrnes and Gearoid Hegarty for the trip to Nowlan Park, while William O’Donoghue is definitely ruled out with a long-term injury.
Cody will want a response from his team from the defeat to Wexford three weeks to go and he tends to get them around this time of year. Bar the 2013 exit to Cork in the All Ireland quarter final Kilkenny have made it to the last two of the Liam McCarthy decider 10 out of the last 11 years so can they make the long road to it this time around.

Tipperary v Westmeath, Semple Stadium, 5pm
Saturday will mark the first ever meeting between Tipperary and Westmeath in the All-Ireland senior hurling championship and many have already written off the latter’s chances.
Tipp haven’t been in the qualifiers since 2014, accounting for Galway, Offaly, Dublin and Cork that year to reach the All-Ireland final against eventual winners Kilkenny, and plenty fancy them to mimic that run again this summer.
The fact that the current Liam McCarthy Cup holders refused a request from Westmeath to switch the venue to Mullingar for Saturday’s game certainly echoes that they mean business this weekend and Michael Ryan has made six changes to the team which includes 3 championship debutants and a few positional switches.
The Lake County’s footballers received a 31-point hammering at the hands of Dublin in last Sunday’s Leinster semi-final and their hurlers could well be in for a similar sort of lesson when they arrive in Thurles.

Offaly v Waterford, Bord Na Mona O’Connor Park, 3pm
Offaly welcome Waterford to Tullamore on Saturday afternoon for what will be the third championship qualifier meeting between the two counties.
The Deise men have won all three of those clashes to date and are red-hot favourites to make it four wins in a row over the home side.
Derek McGrath’s charges fell flat against Cork in Munster two weeks ago but look on course for their first win of the summer against the Faithful County, whom defeated Westmeath before receiving a 0-33 to 1-11 hammering at the hands of Galway in the Leinster semi-final.
Offaly boss Kevin Ryan says the objective for Saturday is to “avoid a slaughtering” more than anything else and they’ll do well to do so.
Waterford’s only missing starter is the suspended Stephen Bennett, who was cited for tugging Damien Cahalane’s faceguard in the defeat to the Rebels, which means they should win this one with some comfort.

Sunday, July 2nd
Leinster SHC final
Wexford v Galway, Croke Park, 4pm
It’s the most eagerly awaited game of the championship and what a battle it should be at Croke Park.
Wexford and Galway meet in the Leinster SHC final for the first time ever on Sunday afternoon, as Davy Fitzgerald’s charges look to end the Tribesmen’s impressive run since demolishing Tipperary in April’s National League decider.
The Slayneysiders have been doing some impressing of their own since that time too, with their three-point win over Kilkenny as many weeks ago the story so far in the eastern province.
It’s a Galway forward line with so much potency that Joe Canning’s free count (0-11) doesn’t yet measure up to what the sensational Conor Whelan has contributed from play (0-12) two games into the summer.
Conor Cooney and Niall Burke will take some watching from the Model men’s defence too, but they aren’t limited in attacking options either.
Free-taker Conor McDonald leads the way in the scoring stakes so far for Wexford, but its Lee Chin’s incredible skill and athleticism that they’ve really been utilising this season and the likes of Paul Morris and Harry Kehoe offer a deadly supporting cast.
A real treat for hurling fans looks in store.