Relegations battle dominates hurling clashes

There are three clashes down for decision in today's final round of the National Hurling League relegation section.

There are three clashes down for decision in today's final round of the National Hurling League relegation section.

Down face a tough encounter to ensure their Division 1 status with a trip to Fraher Field in Dungarvan to take on Munster champions Waterford, who are already assured of top flight hurling next season.

With that in mind, Waterford manager Justin McCarthy has decided to rest many of his high-profile players and mix youth with experience.

Seven of last year's Munster championship-winning side are named in the starting line-up: Declan Prendergast, Tony Browne, Dave Bennett, John Mullane, Dan Shanahan, Eoin Kelly and Eoin McGrath.

Ian O'Regan replaces Seamus Brenner between the sticks, Liam Lawlor starts in the heart of defence for the injured James Murray, while dual player Eddie Rockett makes his senior hurling inter-county debut at left wing-back.

Down boss John Crossey has handed U21 star Richard Murray his senior inter-county debut for today's clash.

Murray takes his place between the posts for Graham Clarke, who is being rested. Andy Savage takes over from Portaferry club colleague Gerard Adair in midfield.

Limerick host Laois in Kilmallock. Following their unconvincing victory over Dublin last weekend, manager Joe McKenna has made four changes to his line-up.

Niall Moran returns to the attack, replacing John Paul Sheehan at centre-forward. Timmy Houlihan gets the nod between the posts, with Ger O'Connell dropping to the bench.

Peter Lawlor returns from injury to the half-back line, with Paudie O'Dwyer the player losing out.

Adare forward Donncha Sheehan comes into the attach in place of Alan O'Connor.

Former full-back TJ Ryan continues at full-forward.

Laois have made one switch and a number of positional changes from the side that beat Down last weekend for the encounter.

Boss Paudie Butler has chosen Canice Coonan ahead of Joe Fitzpatrick at right half-back, while Darren Rooney and James Young exchange positions - with Rooney on the 40 and Young in midfield.

The final tie of the round is a make-or-break clash for both sides.

Antrim host Dublin in Casement Park, and a win or a draw for the northerners will ensure their Division 1 status for next season.

However, the Saffrons will have to field an understrength side due to a lengthy injury list.

Karl McKeegan (broken thumb) and Paddy Richmond (broken finger) remain on the treatment table, Ciaran Herron (hamstring) and Brian McFall (groin) are both doubtful starters, while Brendan Herron and Anile Ó Caireallain are not considered because they are sitting college exams.

Dublin boss Humphrey Kelleher has made two changes to his side in the Metropolitans' bid to avoid the drop.

Darragh Spain makes his league debut at full-back, taking the place of Simon Daly, while Stuart Mullen replaces Michael Carton at top of the left.

Kelleher received a much-needed boost earlier in the week with the news Stephen Perkins had returned to the squad.

Perkins withdrew from the panel earlier this year, but had a change of heart and is on the bench for the crucial clash with the Saffrons.

WATERFORD (SH v Down): I O'Regan; D Prendergast, J O'Leary, D Coffey; T

Browne, L Lawlor, E Rockett; A Moloney, D Bennett; J Mullane, D

Shanahan, E Kelly; P O'Brien, P Foley, E McGrath.

DOWN (SH v Waterford): R Murray; L Clarke, S Murray, P Hughes; Gabriel Clarke; G Savage, S Wilson; A Savage, P Monan; E Clarke, P Braniff, B McGourty; M Coulter, G Johnson, S Clarke.

LIMERICK (SH v Laois): T Houlihan; D Reale, S Lucey, M Foley; O Moran,

B Geary, P Lawlor; D O'Grady, P O'Grady; A O'Shaughnessy, N Moran, C

Fitzgerald; D Ryan, TJ Ryan, D Sheehan.

LAOIS (SH v Limerick): K Galvin; B Campion, P Cuddy, C Healy; C Cloonan, S O'Dwyer, M McEvoy; J Young, J Walsh; J Phelan, D Rooney, L Tynan; T Fitzgerald, M Rooney, D Culleton.

DUBLIN (SH v Antrim): G Maguire; G Bennett, G Spain, S O'Shea; S Hineuy, R Fallon, D O'Reilly; C Meehan, D Sweeney; G O'Meara, D Curtin, T Moore; E Carroll, M Breathnach, S Mullen.

ANTRIM (SH v Dublin - from): D Quinn, J Campbell, M Scullion, J Scullion, S Og McFadden, M McCambridge, M Herron, P Cunningham, C McGuckian, M Hamilton, K Kelly, G Cunningham, B McFall, B Quinn, J McIntosh, P Close, M Kettle, G Bell, J Connolly, C Hamill, K Stewart, M Magill.

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