By Aaron Doyle
THE Carlow hurlers will play their first home game of the national hurling league campaign while the fifth round of the FA Cup also takes place. Here are some of the highlights of this sporting weekend.
1 Carlow v Antrim
NHL Division 2A, Netwatch Cullen Park, Sunday
Carlow’s hurlers are looking to make it two wins from two as they take on Antrim in their first home game in this year’s league.
Spirits are high after their two-point victory over Westmeath last weekend and Colm Bonnar’s men are looking to beat another favourite for league honours as they take on Antrim, who defeated London by seven points in their league opener.
Antrim just missed out on the Walsh Cup semi-finals after a heavy loss to Kilkenny, despite having wins over Westmeath and DCU Dóchas Éireann in their group. The main men to watch out for in Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton’s side are Ciaran Clarke, who scored 0-9 against London, and Niall McKenna, who was one of their top scorers in last year’s Christy Ring cup.
The northern side will be looking to improve on their accuracy from last week’s game as they hit 11 wides during the first half alone so they are capable of creating chances but the Carlow side will be confident that they can beat their opponents if they can keep Clarke and McKenna quiet. That, however, is easier said than done. Throw-in is at 2pm.
2 Rugby League World Club Series
The best teams from the UK take on the best Australia has to offer in this year’s World Club Series.
The first game takes place on Saturday night when last season’s league leader shield winners the Warrington Wolves will face the Brisbane Broncos, who were invited to compete after the team that topped the table in the regular season, Melbourne Storm, refused to take part in the series. The Wolves will be relying on second row Ben Currie, who has been capped by Ireland at international level, and wingers Tom Lineham and Kevin Penny to give them the win while the Broncos have six State of Origin players with second rower Matt Gillett, New Zealander Jordan Kahu and prop Sam Thaiday the pick of these players. The game kicks-off at Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington at 8pm Saturday night.
After that, the main event will take place when the Super League Grand Final winners Wigan Warriors take on the NRL Grand Final winners Cronulla Sharks. The Warriors will be looking to Sam Tomkins, Joe Burgess and Liam Farrell to see them over the line while the Sharks will hope Valentine Holmes and Sosaia Feki can show the form that made them champions of Australia for the first time in their history last season. This game in the DW Stadium kicks-off at 3pm Sunday.
3 FA Cup round five
Only 16 teams remain in the FA Cup this season as the road to Wembley is coming closer to its final destination.
The first game of the weekend sees one of the surprises of this year’s competition, Lincoln City, travel to Turf Moor to take on Burnley. Lincoln are flying in the fifth-tier National League while Burnley are 12th in the Premier League. This one has a 12:30pm kick-off.
Current Premier League leaders Chelsea are away to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who defeated Liverpool in the last round. Wolves are currently in danger of being relegated from the Championship to League One as they are six points outside the relegation zone, having lost their last three league games. This is a 5:30pm kick-off.
Manchester City are away to Huddersfield Town, who are flying high in the Championship sitting four points outside the automatic promotion spots in third place. The home side have won their last six games in all competitions while City beat Bournemouth in the league to go eight points behind Chelsea. This game is a 3pm kick-off.
On Sunday there is a London derby as Fulham host Tottenham Hotspur. Fulham are outside the play-off places in the Championship after winning their last two games while Spurs are in third in the Premier League with their loss to Liverpool being their last one since losing to Manchester United in December. This is a 2pm kick-off.
Blackburn Rovers host United in the other Sunday game. Rovers are seriously struggling in the Championship and are in the relegation zone, having only one win in their last six league games. United are sixth in the Premier League and they are unbeaten in their last four in all competitions. This is a 4pm kick-off.
The Monday night game sees a true David v Goliath clash as Arsenal travel to Sutton United. Sutton are six points above the relegation zone in the National League but their cup run has given them a few games in hand over the others near them. Arsenal will be looking to recover from their 5-1 loss to Bayern in a 7:55pm kick-off.
4 Leinster v Edinburgh
Friday, RDS Arena
With the Six Nations taking a break for a week, it is back to Pro12 action for rugby fans when Leinster take on Edinburgh in the RDS.
Leinster are without many of their internationals for this match as they have made eight changes from last week’s game against Treviso. The first change sees Dave Kearney taking up the left-wing role instead of the right-wing with Barry Daly going in the right-wing. This means Adam Byrne will begin on the bench. Athy’s Joey Carbery will start his first game since November as he will replace Ross Byrne. Luke McGrath will be beside him as he will replace Jamison Gibson-Park. James Tracey and Mike Ross will replace Richardt Strauss and Michael Bent in the front row while Mike McCarthy and Dominic Ryan will replace Mick Kearney and Ian Nangle in the second row. Finally, Josh van der Flier will return from Ireland duty and he will replace Dan Leavy.
Edinburgh have made five changes of their own from their six point loss to Ulster last week. Glenn Bryce will replace Blair Kinghorn at full-back while there is a new centre partnership as Duncan Weir and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will replace Jason Tovey and Sean Kennedy respectively. The forwards are fairly settled with Magnus Bradbury moving from number 8 to flanker replacing Viliame Mata, with Cornell du Preez replacing Bradbury in the number 8 spot. Kick-off for this one is at 7:35pm.
5 NBA All-Star game
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Monday
Many of the biggest names in basketball will showcase their talents as the Eastern Conference take on the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star game.
Last year’s NBA finalists, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, have two starters each for their respective conferences. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are the Cavs players who will tog out for the East while Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will represent the Warriors on the West. The rest of both teams have some very good players with Milwaukee Bucks player Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors in the East’s team, while James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans will face them.
There is plenty of star power coming off the bench for both sides as Steve Kerr, who also coaches the Warriors, can call on Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook and Warriors duo Klay Thompson and Draymond Green while the East’s coach Brad Stevens, who coaches the Boston Celtics, has New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers and Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets in reserve. The game’s opening tip-off is at 1am Irish Time.