Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
Antrim v Galway (Corrigan Park, Saturday, 2pm)
IN a topsy turvy Leinster Senior Hurling Championship to date, it’s been a case of expect the unexpected, so Antrim will look to continue the series of surprises when Galway come to town on Saturday.

At the outset of the competition, many would have expected that after three rounds of games, Kilkenny and Galway would be putting daylight between themselves and the rest, but that is far from the case as it is Dublin leading the way heading into this weekend’s penultimate round of fixtures.

With the standings as they are, whichever of the teams comes through will be eyeing the knockout stage, while the defeated will be in real danger of dropping into the Joe McDonagh Cup. So which team will turn up on Saturday?

Antrim’s win over a Wexford team that bounced back to defeat Galway, plus Carlow’s draw against Kilkenny have all made a mockery of the notion of a sure thing, so even through Henry Shefflin’s side will be the hottest of favourites to win and in style on Saturday, there is evidence aplenty that the scrip is there to be shredded.

And shredded it will need to be as Antrim are tasked with once again finding a response to a heavy loss as  a rousing home win over Wexford followed a humbling in Kilkenny, but were unable to back that up in Dublin who would emphatically pull away in the closing stages to leave them with another reset required.

“It’s a massive test against Galway, but the pressure will be on them the way the results are going,” said Antrim manager Darren Gleeson after the Dublin defeat.

“Everyone has something to play for. It’s still a 50-50 game and we have them at home in Belfast, so we just have to try and make that count and stay in the game until the business end.

“I’m saying it all the time, we need to stay in the game until the real championship minutes.”

Galway were tested but ultimately prevailed by 11 against Carlow to open their campaign, fought back to grab a share of the spoils against Kilkenny and then fell flat in Wexford, so they have not been setting the world alight either.

Of course, The Tribesmen have dominated recent meetings between the teams, winning last year’s corresponding fixture in Salthill by 19 before extending that margin to 25 in a League meeting between the teams at Corrigan Park earlier this year.

That form guide suggests Antrim have a lot of work to do to give themselves any sort of a chance and they show just one change in personnel from the Dublin defeat as Michael Bradley returns to the starting line-up in place of Aodhán O'Brien.

Galway will certainly be seeking a reaction from the Wexford defeat as they were uncharacteristically flat on the day and will be targeting a good start to dent any Antrim notions of an upset.

They have plenty of weapons to do just that with household names such as Conor Whelan, Evan Niland, Brian Concannon and Conor Cooney leading the line.

As mentioned, the onus is on Antrim to start well, stay in touch for as long as possible and be in a position to strike down the stretch if they are to upset the applecart again.

Results so far have proven that anything is possible when a team gets it right and Antrim must produce a performance that has gone beyond anything they have managed before.

That involves cutting out the mistakes, greater accuracy with passing and shooting, plus closing down the space.

It’s a big ask, but as we have already seen in this year’s championship, impossible is nothing.