Saturday, 13th January
Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Hurling Semi-Final – Offaly v Kilkenny, Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, 2pm
Sunday, 14th January
Bord na Móna Walsh Cup Hurling Semi-Final – Dublin v Wexford, Parnell Park, 2pm
Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup Football Semi-Final – Meath v Longford, Pairc Tailteann, 2pm
Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup Football Semi-Final – Westmeath v Offaly, TEG Cusack Park, 2pm
Bord Na Móna Kehoe Cup Hurling Round 3 – Wicklow v Longford, Kilcoole, 2pm
Bord Na Móna Kehoe Cup Hurling Round 3 – Louth v DCU St Patrick’s Campus, Darver, 2pm
Eight goals scored and none conceded is perhaps the most pleasing statistic for Pat Gilroy from his opening two games in charge of Dublin hurlers.
But it’s unlikely to be as easy this Sunday when Davy Fitzgerald brings his Wexford squad to Parnell Park for the semi-final of the Bord na Móna Walsh Cup.
By then, either Offaly or Kilkenny will have booked their place in the final, as their semi-final takes place at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Saturday fixture avoids a clash with the Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup football semi-final between Offaly and Westmeath in TEG Cusack Park on Sunday. The other football semi-final also takes place on Sunday, when Meath host Longford at Pairc Tailteann.
Counties have used the group games to experiment with new players and will probably continue that policy this weekend.
Nevertheless, for some recently appointed managers, including Offaly’s Kevin Martin, a place in the final would be a welcome boost ahead of the start of the Allianz Leagues.
The Faithful County beat neighbours Westmeath twice in the past week, having been paired together in the two-team Group 4. Colm Gath hit both goals in their 2-15 to 1-16 Round 1 victory, while Oisin Kelly blasted home the only goal of the game in Round 2, which ended 1-18 to 0-18. Dan Currams made a welcome return to inter-county action when introduced as a substitute last weekend, while Shane Dooley also made a big impact when introduced.
Kilkenny had big wins over Laois (6-24 to 1-14) and Kildare (3-18 to 0-8), so Brian Cody will look forward to a sterner test on Saturday. Richie Reid fired home two goals in their first game, while John Walsh netted a couple against the Lilywhites as competition for places on their panel for 2018 hots up.
Dublin hurlers have also been goal-hungry to date, with Alan Moore and Fionn O’Riain Broin among those to catch the eye in their defeats of Antrim (4-16 to 0-17) and Meath (4-18 to 0-14) respectively.
Wexford began their campaign with a comprehensive defeat of Wicklow (6-36 to 1-12), but were pushed harder by Carlow in a midweek contest under lights at Hollymount. Cathal Dunbar’s 55th minute goal proved decisive as they edged through by 1-20 to 0-18, while free-taker Lee Chin top-scored with 0-9.
The biggest attendance of the weekend will almost certainly be in Mullingar for the football semi-final between Westmeath and Offaly. Colin Kelly reached the O’Byrne Cup final last season when in charge of Louth and would like to at least match that achievement with the Lake County.
Callum McCormack hit a hat-trick of goals last Sunday as they beat Laois for the second time in the space of seven days while Luke Loughlin impressed in attack in both outings and could be one to watch in 2018.
Offaly were delighted to come from behind to draw with Dublin in their second game at Parnell Park, with 18 year old Cian Johnson top-scoring with six points, hot on the heels of his 1-3 in the first round versus Wexford. Jordan Hayes also scored two goals in a big win over the Model County.
Longford came through two beneficial games against Louth (2-13 to 1-10) and Kildare (1-14 to 0-13) with the experienced Robbie Smyth and Sean McCormack to the fore against the Lilywhites.
Meath edged out Carlow in their first outing of the season under lights by 0-9 to 0-7. Carlow had defeated Wicklow in the first round but Meath made no mistake against the Garden County last Sunday. A 4-19 to 0-13 victory guaranteeing their place on top of Group 3, with debutants David Toner and Mark McCabe among the goal scorers.