brennan's brief Why this weekend's hurling fixtures already have so much at stake
When the GAA came up with the idea of round-robins for the provincial hurling championships the idea was surely that the last two rounds would be packed with exciting matches as teams went head-to-head to stay alive.
Well this weekend is only the second set of matches of the 2022 round-robins, but in Wexford v Dublin on Saturday and Tipperary v Clare on Sunday we already have two matches where the loser is left with dim prospects.
Three teams come out of each province when it is all over, and most people would expect Kilkenny and Galway to be two of the Leinster trio. It leaves Wexford and Dublin fighting for the other place and whoever wins in Wexford Park on Saturday night has a huge advantage in the race to get out of the Eastern province and into the All-Ireland series.
Thanks to Lee Chin, Wexford scrambled a draw against Galway last weekend, Dublin almost scrambled a defeat out of a match they ought to have won by seven or eight points. The hurling Dubs shot 18 wides against Laois, a repeat of that against Wexford and they will surely lose.
Down in Munster Tipp host Clare in FBD Semple Stadium and the pressure is on. Tipperary played well against Waterford last Sunday, but they got no reward, they must beat the Banner to stay alive in the south.
Yet the pressure is on Clare too. This is the Banner’s first matches in the five-team Munster campaign and they simply have to hit the ground running. The young team of 2013 that won the All-Ireland never kicked on, they have still to win a Munster title, never mind another Liam MacCarthy Cup. Time is running out for the players to deliver and manager Brian Lohan is feeling the heat.
And it is not just the hurling where the pressure is on. Mayo v Galway in Castlebar and Donegal v Armagh in Ballybofey are two huge football games on Sunday.
The losers have a backdoor open to them, but these games are about what is on offer for the two winners.
You see the draw for this year’s All-Ireland semi-final pairings are Leinster v Munster and Connacht v Ulster. In other words, whoever wins this two games has a possible passage ahead of them to an All-Ireland Final without coming up against Dublin or Kerry – the losers might have to beat both of those teams coming through the qualifiers.
See what I mean about huge games all across this weekend with so much at stake. And it will only be April 23rd and 24th. Dear God
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