Lonesharkoy previews the first round of the National Hurling League this weekend and he is going for Kilkenny to beat Waterford and Dublin to surprise Tipperary.
The naming of the Kilkenny and Waterford teams for this weekend’s live broadcasted fixture has sent out a clear signal that both managers are taking a “February be damned” approach to this clash. Twelve of the team that started last year’s All Ireland final will line out for the Cats in the first meaningful contest of the year for both sides, while the team selected by Derek McGrath and his management team wouldn’t be far off a full strength side either. Factor in the retirement of Richie Power and the injury to Ger Aylward and it becomes clear that the essentially the two sides are looking to put their best foot forward. Both sides are clearly intent on sending out a strong signal right from the off, and while Kilkenny aren’t long back from their holiday and are no doubt a long way back in their training, it’s hard not to be tempted by the odds of 8/11 that are available about a Kilkenny win.
If this was the height of summer, the odds here would be around 1/3 – and while it’s easy to dismiss that on the basis that the daffodils are only coming out right now; if Brian Cody felt that his senior players weren’t ready for this contest, he’d be happy to send some of his reserves into battle. Instead he has called on his first string and he’ll expect them to deliver. We’ll back them to do so too, taking Kilkenny at 8/11 with Bet365 and a few others, as our first bet of the week.
Staying in Division 1A, Dublin have been cut right in on the strength of the team news for tonight’s clash with Tipperary at Semple Stadium, but while Powers and Ladbrokes are gone under 2/1 about an away win, there’s still 23/10 and 9/4 with some of the online firms and this should be hoovered up while it’s still around.
The absence of any pre-season competition will have hurt Tipperary and challenge games simply don’t have the same edge. It looked for a while as if Ger Cunningham was a poor fit in the capital and that may yet turn out to be the case. However he has got his team moving well at this time of year and against a Tipp side that doesn’t always burst out of the blocks at pace, they might be able to pull off a surprise win.
For a side that was very close to reaching an All-Ireland final less than six months ago, Tipperary have a lot of work to do over the coming league campaign as more than a few senior players in the Premier County have lost their edge, and aren’t showing the attitude that they’ll need to overcome Kilkenny in a key fixture later this summer. Michael Ryan looks like he’s going to address that, but in the short term, they’ll struggle to keep pace. Dublin at 23/10 with Bet365 look like very live outsiders in this contest and should be supported.