Hurling fans are looking forward to an explosive start to the new-look Leinster Championship.
Leinster and All-Ireland Champions Galway will travel to Tullamore to face Offaly in the opening game of the season on Saturday, 12th May, while Dublin and Kilkenny will enter the fray the following afternoon at Parnell Park.
It’s all systems go from then on as the round-robin format features two top-class fixtures on five successive weekends. Wexford’s opening game is on Sunday, 20th May at home to Dublin, while Kilkenny host Offaly the same afternoon.
The top two teams after all games are completed will contest the Leinster SHC final at Croke Park on 1st July, while the third placed team will also progress to the All-Ireland series.
For the first time, Galway will host two Leinster Championship games at Pearse Stadium but, for now, their focus is on the upcoming battle against the Faithful County.
The reigning champions are aiming to emulate the heroes of 1987/’88 by retaining the Liam MacCarthy Cup, and Micheal Donoghue’s men will be expected to get the defence of their titles off to a winning start.
But Offaly hit the ground running in the 2018 Allianz League with a victory over Dublin at Croke Park and have been showing signs of improvement under Kevin Martin. The Faithful County will have a huge home support cheering them on at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, though their recent record against the Tribesmen is unimpressive. Last year, Galway defeated Offaly by 0-33 to 1-11 in the Leinster SHC semi-final.
Less than 24 hours later, Parnell Park should be packed for the visit of Kilkenny. Pat Gilroy’s first championship outing in charge of Dublin’s hurlers will generate an extra buzz, especially with their Cuala contingent back to lead the charge after retaining the All-Ireland Club title.
Like Offaly, Dublin’s league form was mixed, whereas Kilkenny showed they can never be written off by adding another title under Brian Cody. Their young guns have quickly made a mark and talk of a transition in Kilkenny hurling has been replaced by the realisation that they remain one of the leading contenders for glory.
In their most recent championship clash, the provincial semi-final in 2016, Kilkenny came out on top by 1-25 to 0-16, but home advantage should guarantee that Dublin will be far more competitive this Sunday.
Tickets are now on sale for these first round games, and here’s the full schedule of matches for supporters to look forward to:
Rd 1 • OFFALY v GALWAY • Bord na Móna O’Connor Park • 12th May • 7.00pm
Rd 1 • DUBLIN v KILKENNY • Parnell Park • 13th May • 2.00pm
Rd 2 • WEXFORD v DUBLIN • Innovate Wexford Park • 20th May • 3.00pm
Rd 2 • KILKENNY v OFFALY • Nowlan Park • 20th May • 3.00pm
Rd 3 • OFFALY v WEXFORD • Bord na Móna O’Connor Park • 26th May • 7.00pm
Rd 3 • GALWAY v KILKENNY • Pearse Stadium, Galway • 27th May • 4.00pm
Rd 4 • WEXFORD v GALWAY • Innovate Wexford Park • 2nd June • 5.00pm
Rd 4 • DUBLIN v OFFALY • Parnell Park • 3rd June • 3.00pm
Rd 5 • KILKENNY v WEXFORD • Nowlan Park • 9th June • 7.00pm
Rd 5 • GALWAY v DUBLIN • Pearse Stadium, Galway • 9th June • 7.00pm