The three championship clashes between Kilkenny and Galway were highpoints of the 2012 All-Ireland series and now the fascinating rivalry is set to launch this year’s Allianz Hurling League.

They meet in Pearse Stadium next Sunday (2.0) in what promises to be a great occasion on the opening weekend of the new competition. Kilkenny are the reigning League and All-Ireland champions and will be determined not to concede any early ground to rivals who showed huge improvement last year.

Kilkenny beat Galway in last year’s Walsh Cup and Allianz League games before losing heavily in the Leinster final. The sides drew in the All-Ireland final – the first drawn hurling final since 1959-  before Kilkenny won the replay.

There will be huge interest in next Sunday’s game which will be shown ‘live’ on TG4 as Brian Cody leads his champions into the west to take on a Galway side, managed by Anthony Cunningham.

Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Liam O’Neill said:

“It’s more than four months since Galway and Kilkenny served up two thrilling All-Ireland finals last September and I have no doubt that the renewal of their rivalry in particular this weekend in the Allianz Leagues will whet the appetite of GAA supporters ahead of the coming season.”

The return of top level inter-county hurling is very welcome after the long break and much of the expectations that will garner around teams this season will be generated on the back of their performances in this competition as the best hurling teams in the country clash on a regular basis.”

The Allianz League gets underway on Saturday evening when Cork, runners-up to Kilkenny last year, host Tipperary. That game will also be shown ‘live’ on TV (Setanta). Cork v Tipperary games are always special affairs and with Tipperary under new management, the supporters will be very keen to see how the side is shaping up under Eamon O Shea. Cork ran a good League campaign under Jimmy Barry-Murphy last year, reaching the final where they lost to Kilkenny.

Clare mark their return to Division 1A with a home clash against Waterford on Sunday. It’s important for both sides to make a good start to the League while supporters will also be looking for pointers to the Munster championship clash between the counties in Thurles on June 2.

With promotion to Division 1A and a place in the League semi-finals the prize for winning Division 1B, this group is certain to be extremely competitive.  Dublin, winners of  the Allianz League title outright in 2011, will be very anxious to make a quick return to the top flight after being relegated last year.