Limerick face Cork in NHL opener

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Clare v Limerick - Waterford Crystal Cup Quarter-FinalDIVISION 1B has been something of a quicksand pit for the Limerick hurlers in recent years, one that they have struggled to escape despite battling furiously against some stodgy opposition. Last year’s narrow defeat to Dublin in the divisional final was just the latest heartbreak and on the face of it, the cards haven’t fallen kindly for them this year either. They will face Cork this Saturday night, February 15, in Pairc Uí Rinn, with a 7pm throw in.
In a nutshell, Cork have been handed a huge favour by the fixtures. Historically, the team that is relegated to Division 1B takes over the fixtures from the team that was promoted – in this case, Dublin. Had that been the case, Cork would have had a reverse of the fixtures from 2013 and would have had to travel to Limerick, Offaly and Wexford. Instead, in a departure from the norm, they’ve taken over the fixtures of the relegated Carlow, which means they host those three teams. Coincidence? Who knows.
What we do know is that if Limerick lose this Saturday 15 night’s game at Páirc Uí Rinn, they are all out of second chances. Cork will almost certainly win out regardless of what happens under lights this weekend, so one more slip up from Limerick against either Offaly in Tullamore or at home to Wexford could be fatal.
Consequently, due solely to their greater motivation, Limerick could be a good bet to prevail on Saturday night. It’s too early to tell if the Na Piarsaigh players will be asked to step straight back into action but even if they don’t, there should be the depth in this Limerick panel to really push a Cork team that is built for hard ground and Summer conditions.
The game itself will be broadcast live on Setanta Ireland, with full live radio commentary on Limerick’s Live 95fm.
Limerick are slight underdogs for the game, being priced at 2/1 this weekend. With the game also serving as Donal O’Grady and TJ Ryan’s first outing as dual managers, it will be interesting to see where Limerick will be at in terms of player selection, positioning and fitness. The 2013 Munster hurling champions will know that the last time Donal O’Grady and TJ Ryan were in the backroom, the Division 1A title was won.
(Odds mentioned, supplied by Paddy Power)