Model out to complete clean sweep of Kilkenny
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship round four: Wexford v Kilkenny (tonight, Innovate Wexford Park, 7pm, live on Sky Sports Arena)
THE Kilkenny-Wexford rivalry may sway heavily in favour of the Cats overall, but this season it has all been about the Model men as these neighbours prepare to battle it out knowing that a provincial final and a Championship exit are both on the table.
This will be the third meeting between the counties this year and on the two previous occasions it has been Wexford who have been left with the bragging rights, albeit there wasn't too much shouting after their first win. That's because it was a Walsh Cup semi-final meeting back in January.
A more significant victory was secured in March when Wexford out-scored Kilkenny 1-11 to 0-2 in the second half to secure a spot in the National League quarter-finals.
Victory tonight would be the sweetest of them all though and would secure a second Leinster final appearance in three years for the county.
Key man Lee Chin this week brilliantly described Kilkenny as “a monkey on every team's back for years” but there's no doubting that some of their aura has disappeared in recent years, especially with the side missing out on the last two All-Ireland finals.
Davy Fitzgerald's side will want to drive that perception home a bit more in what is sure to be a crackling atmosphere at Wexford Park. Former Kilkenny star Jackie Tyrell this week said that the venue was the most hostile environment he has ever experienced as a player.
Between management and the crowd, it's going to be a fired up Wexford side and it's up to Kilkenny to match them physically whilst also showing a necessary calmness when it comes to shooting.
In a group stage that has been remarkably tight when it comes to scoring – with the exception of Carlow – Kilkenny do seem to be getting scores more freely than other teams.
Galway (4-60), Wexford (4-63) and Dublin (4-65) have hit almost identical tallies but Kilkenny's 7-67 has them in front. Even if games against Carlow are excluded, Kilkenny have still scored 2-10 more than Wexford across their three games to date.
The chief reason for that has been the phenomenal performances of TJ Reid, who has been incredible for Brian Cody's side.
He hit 2-11, 2-4 from play, against Galway last week and still came out on the wrong end of the result. The top three tallies in this year's All-Ireland Senior Championship all belong to Reid and he has more goals to his name (five) than every other team in the Leinster group.
Fitzgerald simply has to have a plan in place to at least reduce his threat, and if they are successful in that it will go a long way to getting them over the line.
That's easier said than done of course, but the ingredients are there for a famous home victory. If that is the case then Kilkenny will have to tune in nervously to Parnell Park in the hope that their season isn't brought to a premature end.
Odds: H: 7/4 D: 8/1 A: 8/13
Leinster Senior Hurling Championship round four: Dublin v Galway (tonight, Parnell Park, 7pm)
GALWAY may be the side sitting top of the Leinster table heading into the last round of games, but they could actually finish the night as low as fourth and out of the All-Ireland race altogether.
It's an unlikely scenario but not an impossible one. A Dublin win and a draw between Wexford and Kilkenny would force the Tribesmen to put the hurls away for the summer.
There has been some speculation that Galway boss Micheál Donoghue could use Joe Canning in some capacity tonight, but it still seems a bit soon for the Portumna superstar. The player was ruled out for “14 to 16 weeks” after picking up a groin injury in a March League game with Waterford. This is only week 12.
One man they will definitely be without though is John Hanbury who unsuccessfully appealed the suspension imposed following his sending off against Kilkenny last weekend.
The Connacht outfit should feel much more assured about where they are at following their thrilling 3-20 to 2-22 win in Nowlan Park last weekend. It was the first Championship match Kilkenny had lost at the venue since Laois bettered them in 1949, although they have only played there 15 times since winning every game until last week's loss.
The basis for Galway's victory came in winning the aerial battle, so often the trademark of a Brian Cody side. Johnny Glynn in particular was outstanding in the air in what was the first start of a season for a player who regularly commutes from New York to play for his county.
All six Galway forwards scored last week, contributing a massive 2-13 from play, and a purring Tribe attack should make them dangerous opposition no matter who they face.
Dublin manager Mattie Kenny will be trying to work out a way to put the brakes on them, and given that he hails from Galway he should have a particularly good understanding of their dangers.
They've had a strange Leinster Championship to date. They were excellent in the first half of their opener against Kilkenny before falling away in the second while they needed a last-gasp, poorly struck goal from Sean Moran to earn a draw with Wexford.
Carlow were dispatched in a professional manner last time out. Shane Barrett was sent off in that game but unlike Hanbury, he was able to get that decision overturned by the GAA'S Central Hearings Committee.
Galway have a confident forward line at their disposal, and they should have five or six points on Dublin.
Odds: H: 7/4 D: 8/1 A: 8/13