Questions to be answered
1 Are Villa a real threat to the big four (or even the title)?Well there's probably not much doubt about the first question but even Alex Ferguson hinted this week that the sub-text is still a possibility. Sure they've been stumbling over the line in games recentlty, their thinnish squad looking a tad tired, grabbing undeserved late goals and such like, but then that's the sign of a maturing side with a winning mentality as well. They've had three draws with the top sides at home this season but could do with a thumping win to emphasise Martin O'Neill's side as real contenders. Chelsea under Guus Hiddink ought to be well-organised and could lift themselves a little over the lethargic, uninterested performances of the season so far. They'll hardly make up for some lack of legs midfield, lack of quality out wide and lack of heart up front though. If Villa have a kick in them and Young, Barry and Agbonlahor have some form left, they could be winners here.
2 Who's the top club hurling side in the land?
Ah, a game for the connoisseurs. The two pre-eminent sides of this generation, the winners of the last three All-Irelands between them, Ballyhale Shamrocks and Portumna clash for the first time. The Kilkenny side have Cha Fitzpatrick, the Reids, Michael Fennelly and of course Henry Shefflin. Portumna have the Cannings, amongst them young Joe, a hurler Jumpthefence hasn't seen the like of before. There ought to be sparks and scores from all distances and angles. We wouldn't be shocked by any feats of brilliance that wandered from the hurls of some of those present in Thurles on Sunday. There shouldn't be a whole pile between them in the end either. Tune in, for god's sake.
- On the opposite end of the scale, Jumpthefence would issue a health warning to anyone watching Drom/ Broadford v Crossmaglen in the football on Saturday. Ned English has put together an effective style of football down in Limerick and has some fine players - Jason Stokes, Micheal Reidy, Tom McLoughlin especially - but by golly, they'll hardly kick a ball away all day and will keep possession religiously. Crossmaglen don't tend to hoof too much ball into their forwards either and their workrate and experience of names like Bellew, McEntees, Kernans and McConville mean they'll give little away. Drom's last two games in Munster were 0-7/ 0-6 and 0-6/ 0-5. Cross have given away 1-4, 0-8 and 0-6 in their Ulster matches. Jesus it'll be hardfought, every score will be earned and there'll be handpassing galore. Not one for the purists.