By Aaron Doyle
THE Carlow senior hurlers will be hoping to continue their promotion push against Kildare in Newbridge on Sunday while Ireland travel to Wales to continue their charge for the Six Nations championship. Here are the highlights of the sporting weekend.
1 Kildare v Carlow
NHL Division 2A, Newbridge, Sunday
The hurlers are continuing their push for promotion from Division 2A as they travel to Kildare, who are also in the mix for a place in the final.
Carlow currently top the table after two wins and a draw from their three games and last week’s big win over London puts them in a good position for this game. Kildare were top of the table before last week’s games but a loss to Antrim has seen them drop out of the top two. They are still in with a shout of making the final after two wins from their three games so far.
Kildare made the news over the winter after bringing in two players from Limerick and one from Kilkenny to their side and these new additions have made an impact for the Lilywhites, who were expected to be nearer to the other end of the table in early season predictions.
David Reidy has been the top scorer in the league for Kildare with 0-24 in the three games so far while John Mulhall and Martin Reidy have also been influential.
A win here for Carlow will secure their place in the final and throw-in in Newbridge is at 2pm.
2 Wales v Ireland
Six Nations, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Friday
Ireland will be looking to keep the pressure on table toppers England when they face Wales in the Six Nations on Friday night in Cardiff.
Ireland are second in the table after two wins and a loss to Scotland from their three games while Wales will be looking to add to their solitary win over Italy in this game. While the Welsh have not been firing on all cylinders, it would be foolish to completely write off the home side as they possess some potential game changers with players like Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Dan Biggar in their squad.
Neither team has changed their starting XV since their last Six Nations game two weeks ago with Wales retaining their entire match day panel from their defeat to Scotland. Ireland have brought in Tommy Bowe to replace the injured Andrew Trimble on the bench.
With the Lions tour coming around this summer, there is also the added bonus of selection as players from both sides will be keen to get themselves on that plane with a good performance in this one. This game kicks-off in the Principality Stadium at 8:05pm.
3 FA Cup quarter-finals
It is the last eight of the FA Cup this weekend as the remaining teams will be looking to book their place in Wembley for the semi-finals.
The opening game of the weekend is an all-Premier League tie as Manchester City travel to Middlesbrough. Boro have beaten Sheffield Wednesday, Accrington Stanley and Oxford United to make it to this stage while City thrashed West Ham, beat Crystal Palace and needed a replay to overcome Huddersfield to make it here. This is a 12:15pm kick-off on Saturday.
The second Saturday game sees National League leaders Lincoln travel to Premier League side Arsenal. Lincoln have played eight games in the competition to get to this stage, with replays against Guiseley and Ipswich as well as wins over Altrincham, Oldham, Brighton and Burnley. Arsenal have beaten Preston, Southampton and Sutton United to make it to this stage. This is a 5:30pm kick-off.
The only game on Sunday sees a London derby with Tottenham taking on Milwall. Spurs have beaten Aston Villa, Wycombe and Fulham while Milwall have beaten Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester. This is a 2pm kick-off.
Chelsea take on Manchester United in the game of the weekend on Monday night. United have beaten Reading, Wigan and Blackburn while Chelsea have beaten Peterborough, Brentford and Wolves in the previous rounds of the Cup. Kick-off at Stamford Bridge is at 7:45pm.
4 Boston Celtics v Chicago Bulls
TD Garden, Boston, Sunday
Two of the most successful teams in NBA history face off as the Boston Celtics take on the Chicago Bulls.
While this is normally a standout clash every season, this game has even more importance as both sides are currently looking to wrap up their place in the play-offs. Boston are in second place in the Eastern conference as they are two wins behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in top spot. Winning this one will go some way to hopefully clinching top seed in the play-offs and this means they will have home advantage throughout their games. Chicago are in eighth position with the Miami Heat having one loss more than the Bulls. A win here will hopefully open up a gap between the Bulls and the Heat for the final place in the play-offs.
Both sides have their star names and they will be hoping that these players can come through for them on Sunday night. Isaiah Thomas is the main star for the Celtics and the 5’9 player has been one of the best in the point guard position in the league. Al Horford and Avery Bradley are also two other names to watch out for in the Celtics line-up.
The Bulls will be hoping Dwayne Wade can do well for them. He has averaged almost 17 points a game in his last five and the Bulls will hope for numbers like that in this one. Other players to watch out for in the Bulls squad are Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. The tip-off for this one is at 7:30pm Irish time.
5 Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild
United Center, Chicago, Sunday
The top two sides in the Western conference of the NHL play each other as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild.
Only one point splits the sides in the table and both sides have already played each other three times this season. The Blackhawks have won the last two, which were played last month, while the Wild won the clash back in January. One thing that has defined their most recent clashes is that the away team has won every time they hit the ice so the Wild will be hoping for more of the same on Sunday.
With a clean bill of health on both sides, the Blackhawks will be looking towards players like Andrew Desjardins and Patrick Kane to get their goals while Duncan Keith will be key in keeping out one of the most potent attacking forces in the league.
The Wild will be hoping their top scorers Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter can add to their tally while they hope Devan Dubnyk can continue his form in the goal as he has the highest save percentage in the league, saving 93% of shots he has faced this season. The puck drops in this one at 4:30pm Irish time.