Lonesharkoy National Hurling League Week 3 Previews

Lonesharkoy looks at week 3 of the hurling and he likes Armagh to beat Roscommon and unders in the Offaly v Laois derby.

Ten years ago this month, Crossmaglen Rangers took on Dromcollogher-Broadford in an All-Ireland club football semi-final. Cross were smack bang in the middle of a nine-year run in which they won seven Ulster club titles and three All-Irelands, while Dromcollogher-Broadford’s 0-7 to 0-6 win over Nemo Rangers in the Munster semi-final was considered one of the biggest shocks in that province for a generation. The Limerick side followed up that win with an 0-6 to 0-5 win over Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the provincial final, so they were arguably as unfancied a team as had ever gone into a club football semi-final, certainly more so than any team since the early 1980’s.

In general, they were rated as between 4/1 and 5/1 to beat Cross Rangers, which would have been the biggest price on any club football semi-finalist in history up to that point, and would have remained so until Mullinalaghta St. Columba’s turned over Kilmacud Crokes last December.

For the record, Crossmaglen won the game comfortably, 4-12 to 0-6.

Part of the reason why the Leinster champions are an incredible 9/1 to win this game is that while they were busy making their way through Leinster and breaking new ground for the county of Longford, Dr. Crokes were laying waste to all competition down south. They easily swatted aside Moyle Rovers, St. Finbarrs and Miltown Malbay, their devastating performance against the Barrs the most impressive of all.

The Killarney club are capable of scoring at a rate that Mullinalaghta couldn’t hope to match, but the other side of this argument is that Dr. Crokes haven’t met a side with the unity of purpose and the collective defensive integrity of the Longford men.

Consider this – Mullinalaghta’s first knockout game of the year was a 1-11 to 0-9 win over Mostrim. Since then they’ve conceded 1-6, 0-6, 1-2, 0-7, 0-3 and 1-6 in that order, shutting down some very decent forwards along the way.

This is an All-Ireland semi-final, the biggest game that these Mullinalaghta players have or will play in, and all the pressure is on Dr. Crokes here. The Kerry club just want to get out of this fixture with their season intact, and unless they get a lot of luck in the early stages and get out to a very fast start, it’s hard to see them pulling away at any stage. They’ll do enough, there’s only one club going to win this game, but even at that, 21/20 with Boylesports about Mullinalaghta plus seven points is a very decent bet.

Another game where defensive play should reign supreme is tonight’s hurling game between Laois and Offaly, where under 43.5 points at 17/20 (Betway) is a very attractive play. Both of these sides have been dismal in attack so far this year, to the point that Offaly’s top scorer is their goalkeeper, while Laois wing back Jack Kelly has scored more times from play (4) than any of their forwards. Both of these counties struggled to get their best players on board for the year, with Ross King and Zane Keenan both unavailable to Laois manager Eddie Brennan, while the Offaly team named has no Shane Dooley, no Cillian Kiely and no Joe Bergin – arguably the county’s three most talented attackers.

There is also the significant aspect that this is a game of immense importance for both sides. With Carlow having picked up a point against Galway, the losing team here is all but guaranteed to face a relegation final, so the pressure is immense. That will undoubtedly lead to some nervy, uneasy hurling and unless something very strange happens, that’s not the environment where either team will get their tally up to 2-18 or similar. This has 1-18 to 0-16 written all over it.

Finally this week, we’re going down the divisions where Armagh are 6/4 (William Hill) to beat Roscommon for some reason that defies logic to this writer.

Armagh were a touch unlucky to be relegated in the league last year, and while there isn’t a lot between these teams generally, home advantage must surely be worth something here. Both sides are down key players from previous seasons, but the strain is really telling with Roscommon, who have only had 18 players available for each of their two games so far. Among their key absentees are leading forwards John Coyne (injury) and Daniel Glynn (transfer to London) and while they’ve been boosted by the return of county football panellist Padraig Kelly, they are stepping up in class here and should be the underdogs. The prices look to be the wrong way around, so bet accordingly.