PREVIEW | Limerick host Wexford needing a draw to progress to the NHL semi-finals

Limerick are seeking a place in the knockout stages of the National Hurling League for the first time since 2020 this Sunday.

The Limerick hurlers will have home comforts in the final round of the National Hurling League when they welcome Wexford this Sunday at 1.45pm in the TUS Gaelic Grounds.

The defending All-Ireland champions can book a place in the knockout stages of the league for the first time in three years if they avoid defeat to the Yellowbellies. Even defeat could be enough for the Shannonsiders if results elsewhere go their way.

But, John Kiely’s men will be focused on picking up a fourth successive victory that would guarantee a League semi-final against Tipperary who will finish top of Group B as they head into the final round with a 100% record under Liam Cahill. Similarly, under the tutelage of Pat Ryan, Cork have won each of their games to secure top spot in Limerick’s group with the first-round defeat remaining the Treaty’s only setback.

The meeting in the Gaelic Grounds will be the first at the venue between the sides since 2016 with Wexford holding home advantage in 2017, John Kiely’s first game in charge, 2019, and last year with the Yellowbellies winning the first and most recent. Limerick were victorious in their return to the top tier in 2019, their first competitive game since winning the All-Ireland.

Seven years ago, Limerick were comfortable 2-23 to 0-16 winners on the Ennis Road, Declan Hannon top scoring with 1-4 while Graeme Mulcahy had their other green flag.

In the clash at the start of the league last year, Wexford ground out a 1-11 to 0-11 victory in difficult conditions that kickstarted a run of three successive defeats for the Shannonsiders.

6 February 2022; Tom Morrissey of Limerick is tackled by Simon Donohoe of Wexford during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A match between Wexford and Limerick at Chadwicks Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

But this year, Limerick have been much improved in the Spring, winning three on the trot following the one-point reversal in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

They dominated in large parts against both Clare and Galway with the result rarely in doubt in either while they put Westmeath to the sword in Mullingar last weekend.

Wexford on the other hand have been quite patchy in the league thus far, with the eleven-point win over Westmeath their only favourable result thus far. They were on the receiving end of a 22-point defeat to Clare but did show signs of life against Cork last week where they were just pipped at the end.

Yet, they will be facing a Limerick side who seem to be improving week on week and were able to introduce three of their All-Ireland winning XV for their first appearances of the season in Mullingar.

Aaron Gillane and Diarmaid Byrnes both got on the scoresheet in the facile win while Mike Casey made his return from injury in defence. Cathal O’Neill also made his first league appearance of the season after missing out on the Fitzgibbon Cup finals with UL.

They are all likely to get more gametime with captain Declan Hannon also back in contention for the weekend according to Kiely with Gearoid Hegarty carrying a slight knock.

Wexford come into the game knowing their chances of reaching the league semi-finals are over but that makes them possibly a more dangerous opposition with their next competitive game a trip to Salthill in the first round of the Leinster championship.

Darragh Egan’s side will look to use the Limerick trip as a test prior to that meeting with Galway with the importance of starting the round robin not lost on any county.

Still, Limerick will be favourites to book their place in the league semi-finals, however, it’s unlikely that they will have it all their own way.

GAA coverage on Sporting Limerick is brought to you in association with Noels Menswear, shop online here or visit in Dooradoyle, Limerick City or Newcastle West.

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