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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 25 June, 2019
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Explainer: What's still at stake in Leinster, Munster and Joe McDonagh Cup hurling races?

This is a pivotal weekend in the 2018 All-Ireland hurling championship.

Plenty to play for for the hurlers of Limerick, Carlow, Waterford and Wexford.
Plenty to play for for the hurlers of Limerick, Carlow, Waterford and Wexford.
Image: INPHO

THE RACE FOR spots in the All-Ireland hurling championship is heating up with the final round of games in Leinster and the Joe McDonagh Cup taking place on Saturday, while the second last round of games in Munster are scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

The third placed team in Leinster and Munster will meet the Joe McDonagh Cup finalists in the opening All-Ireland stage. The winners there will meet the beaten Leinster and Munster finalists in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, with the victors here taking on the Leinster and Munster champions in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

But how are the races in the provinces and the Joe McDonagh Cup shaping up?

Leinster

The situation is clearcut in Leinster. Galway have reached the final, Dublin have nothing left to play for and Offaly have been relegated. The outcome of the Galway-Dublin match on Saturday is immaterial as while Dublin can finish on four points level with Wexford or Kilkenny, they will lose out on the head-to-head tiebreaker in that instance.

That leaves the tie between Kilkenny and Wexford as the clash of consequence. A win for either side will put them into the provincial final against Galway on 1 July. A draw in Nowlan Park will suffice for Wexford (+17) as their scoring difference is superior to that of Kilkenny (+3).

Munster

The situation in Munster is complex with all five teams still in the hunt. There’s four games left to play:

  • Sunday 10 June: Limerick v Waterford, Gaelic Grounds; Tipperary v Clare, Semple Stadium.
  • Sunday 17 June: Clare v Limerick, Cusack Park; Waterford v Cork, Semple Stadium.

It’s difficult to figure out all the permutations and we’ll have a better sense after this Sunday. For Cork, who are absent this weekend from action, a draw or a win in their final game will put them in the top three. Even if they lose that game, they can still survive unless Tipperary end up edging them out on scoring difference with an 11-point gap currently between them.

For Tipperary, who play their final Munster game on Sunday, the scenario is simple as they must win. A loss or draw to Clare would not be enough, while even if they do win, they could be squeezed out by Waterford winning their last two games along with a last day Limerick success over Clare.

For Waterford, defeat on Sunday against Limerick will likely end their hopes of staying in the hunt. A loss, coupled with a draw between Clare and Tipperary, would still give them a chance but they’d need a big win over Cork and a Clare loss to Limerick then, to engineer an unlikely qualification.

For Clare and Limerick, they both face a similar situation. A loss on Sunday will not end their 2018 hopes before the final game in Ennis but a victory would leave them in a strong position, particularly in the case of Limerick.

There’s a lot at stake in Munster on Sunday.

Joe McDonagh Cup

Westmeath have already booked their place in the final with an unblemished record from their four games. They are top on eight points and will meet either Carlow (six points) or Antrim (four points) in the final. Kerry are also on four points but even if they manage to finish level with Carlow, they will lose out on the head-to-head record.

A draw or a win for Carlow on Saturday will put them in the final. If they lose they will also reach the decider as long as Antrim do not win. A defeat for Carlow against Westmeath and a win for Antrim over Kerry will propel Antrim into the final by virtue of their head-to-head record as they previously beat Carlow.

At the other end, Meath are rooted to the bottom of the table with no points to their name with Laois in fifth place on two points. The two counties meet on Saturday in Navan. The bottom placed team is automatically relegated to the Christy Ring Cup next year, the team in fifth will face a relegation play-off against the Christy Ring Cup champions.

The best Meath can hope for is the relegation play-off but they must beat Laois for that to happen. Laois can still avoid the play-off if they beat Meath. They then need favours elsewhere. If they finish just on four points with Kerry, they will lose out on the head-to-head record but will benefit in that scenario if they are tied with Antrim on four points.

- An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that if Laois, Kerry and Antrim all finish on four points, scoring difference will come into play. But this cannot happen as Kerry and Antrim play each other on Saturday.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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