The race for the Liam McCarthy Cup gets officially underway this weekend with two games down for decision in the Leinster championship. Here are our previews:
Saturday, May 12th
Leinster SHC round 1
Offaly v Galway, O'Connor Park, 7pm
Tomorrow evening will see Galway embark on championship hurling again for the first time since last September's triumph over Waterford at Croke Park and it's Kevin Martin's Offaly that will look to provide an opening round shock in Tullamore.
The Tribesmen league title defence didn't go exactly according to script for them and for good measure they were also denied promotion from Division 1B by a fired-up Limerick side in the final round.
Nonetheless, the All-Ireland champions are heading for the midlands as 1/33 favourites to open their defence with a victory, with Joe Canning and Conor Cooney expected to lead the way in the scorning stakes.
When these two met in Salthill back in February the hosts were comfortable in a 2-19 to 0-14 triumph but Offaly had shown glimpses of exactly what they're capable of three weeks previous with a 13-point win over Dublin at Croke Park.
The Faithful men also ran Kilkenny to within two points in the league quarter-finals but consistency has been the key issue for Martin's side and it's hard to envisage them returning to winning ways when the holders arrive at O'Connor Park this weekend.
Sunday, May 13th
Leinster SHC round 1
Dublin v Kilkenny, Parnell Park, 2pm - RTE
The National League ended in the best possible outcome for Kilkenny last month and you can be sure Brian Cody's men won't be satisfied with just one piece of silverware when all's said and done at the end of the season.
The hunt for a 72nd Bob O'Keeffe Cup begins on Sunday for the Cats when they hit the capital for a battle with Pat Gilroy's Dublin side.
The Dubs have their All-Ireland winning Cuala contingent fully back from the league and are certainly capable of giving their province's kingpins some food for thought on Sunday afternoon, especially with home advantage in their favour.
Cats net-minder Eoin Murphy said as much this week, when he pointed out: "Parnell Park is a tough place to go. The first game is massive in terms of building momentum for Leinster, so the challenge won't be easy."
However, the 18-time league champions are 1/7 favourites for a reason and the sizzling form of TJ Reid thus far this season will likely be too hot to handle for Gilroy's defence this weekend.
Be sure to follow the hoganstand.com Live Match Tracker this weekend for all the latest action from the senior football and hurling championships.Tweet