By Niall Gartland
WATERFORD have had a strong start to their Division One campaign with a win and a draw under their belts thus far, and they’re red hot favourites to take the spoils in a home clash against Antrim this weekend.
The Munster side seem to be going well under their new manager Davy Fitzgerald (in his second stint in charge – he cut his teeth at senior intercounty level with the Deise between 2008 and 2011).
They had a brilliant league campaign last year, winning the Division One title with a swashbuckling victory over Cork before their season petered out in the championship.
But the early signs are promising under Fitzgerald, and they’ll go into Sunday’s clash brimming with confidence against an Antrim side left disappointed by narrow enough defeats to Kilkenny and Dublin.
These two sides played out a cracking game of hurling when they met in Corrigan Park last February, with Waterford shading matters by two points on a scoreline of 3-21 to 2-22. The competitive nature of that match bodes well for the Saffrons, but they seemed to be deflated by their defeat to Dublin a fortnight ago.
Basically, the story of their league campaign in recent seasons seems to be a case of ‘so close yet so far’, and it’s hard to see the record changing this weekend.
Down, meanwhile, will be hopeful of getting some boards on the board when they take on Carlow this weekend.
Even though Ronan Sheehan’s side have lost some key personnel through retirements and travel, they pushed Offaly and Kildare right to to the pins of their collar in their opening two league matches. Carlow, likewise, are yet to pick up any points, but on current form, you’d have to fancy the Down men to get a result.
Further down the ranks in Division 2B, Armagh will take on Mayo at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday afternoon, an opportunity to bounce back after a somewhat surprising defeat to Monaghan.
Their Connacht opponents Mayo haven’t enjoyed a good start to the league, drawing against Roscommon on their first day out before losing an entertaining contest to Division 2B newcomers Fermanagh. Armagh by contrast are still technically second in the table having plundered a victory away to Louth in early February before being pipped by unbeaten Monaghan.
The Erne County meanwhile will be riding high in confidence after their win over Mayo, a result that suggests they more than have the capability of holding their own at this level. They take on Roscommon in Brewster Park on Sunday, and they’ll be hopeful of putting in a performance against a Roscommon side that are struggling for form.