The three championship matches between Kilkenny and Galway were the highlights of the 2012 All-Ireland series and now the fascinating rivalry is set to launch this year’s Allianz Hurling League.
The two counties meet in Pearse Stadium on Sunday (2.00) in what promises to be a great occasion on the opening weekend of the new competition. Kilkenny are the reigning League and All-Ireland champions and will be determined to confirm their superiority over a side that almost upset their hopes last year.
Kilkenny beat Galway in last year’s Walsh Cup and Allianz League games before losing heavily in the Leinster final. The sides drew in the All-Ireland final — the first drawn hurling final since 1959- before Kilkenny won the replay. Despite being the stronger team on the second occasion, the Cats were fortunate to get out of jail the first day, and management will be well aware of the threat that the Tribesmen now pose. The latter are a side that traditionally take the league very seriously, and with home advantage they will be fancying their chances.
There will be huge interest in Sunday’s game which will be shown ‘live’ on TG4, as Brian Cody leads his champions into the west to take on a Galway side, managed by Anthony Cunningham. The home side will be very keen to build on last seasons progress and show that it was not just a one off. A visit from the leading team in the country is the perfect way to do just that.
Kilkenny have a number of injuries approaching the league, with stars such as Henry Shefflin, Eoin Larkin, Michael Rice, TJ Reid and Walter Walsh all out.
Galway have a weakened panel starting the new campaign, as a number of suspensions and club games have hit hard. However, Joe Canning is expected to take his place on the team having recovered from injury.
With home advantage and a strong league pedigree, Galway have very realistic prospects of winning this tie. Add in the fact that Kilkenny are minus a number of big names, and the 5/4 on offer from Boylesports on a Galway victory looks good value.