Preview: Lory Meagher Cup Final - Leitrim v Warwickshire
Lory Meagher Cup Final
Leitrim v Warwickshire, Saturday, 1.00, Croke Park
By Colm Shalvey
Leitrim contest the Lory Meagher Cup Final for the first time when they take on 2013 champions Warwickshire on Saturday.
Leitrim lost twice in the group stage – against today’s opponents and Fermanagh – but wins over the returning Cavan side (back in senior inter-county hurling this year for the first time since 2011) and Lancashire kept them in touch.
Leitrim then came out on top in a must-win last-round derby against 2014 and 2015 runners-up Sligo to pip their Connacht rivals to second place.
Warwickshire, meanwhile, were the standout team of the group, as they won all five of their games in some style.
Cavan, Sligo, Fermanagh and Leitrim were no match for the Exiles, whose closest call came in their final-round clash with Lancashire, which they still won with five points to spare; having already secured top spot.
This is Warwickshire’s second final of the year after they lost to Longford in the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIB decider in extra-time. They are appearing at Croke Park for the first time since they defeated Longford in this fixture four years ago.
Warwickshire have an ace in the pack in the shape of former Antrim star forward Liam Watson, who has amassed 9-53 in total this year, with only Lancashire’s free-scoring Ronan Crowley hitting more in the Lory Meagher Cup.
Shane Caulfield, Emmet McCabe, Paul Uniacke, Ian Dwyer and Paul Hoban could also be to the fore for Warwickshire, who are managed by Belfast man Tony Joyce. Seán Hennessy, who top-scored in the 2013 final, has been ruled out, however, after he suffered a cruciate-ligament injury.
The Warwickshire team is made up of players involved with clubs based in Birmingham, Coventry and Nottingham.
Pádraig O’Donnell and the long-serving Clement Cunniffe are responsible for the bulk of Leitrim’s scores, while Zak Moradi, Karl McDermott and Colm Moreton are other key men.
Cunniffe’s father, Martin, is in charge of the Leitrim side and he admitted to being emotional while hailing a “special day” for the county when they booked their ticket to Croker. The Galway native has been living in Leitrim for four decades and has been involved in hurling there for many years.
Meanwhile, Moradi (who is a regular contributor on the scoresheet and was named in the Lory Meagher Cup ‘Champions 15’ selection last year) has been described as a “hurling pioneer” after taking the road less travelled from his birthplace in Iraq to Leitrim.
He continues to commute to Leitrim for hurling even after moving to Dublin, where he plays with the Thomas Davis club.
Warwickshire have hit 14-95 in five games – giving them an average score of 27.4 points – while they have conceded 12 points per game less, with the 8-53 total working out at 15.4 points. Leitrim’s 8-79 gives them an average score of 20.6 points, while they have leaked 10-53 or 18.6 points per game.
Warwickshire have won both meetings with Leitrim this year and they will be determined to complete a hat-trick.
Leitrim Lory Meagher Cup scorers 2017: Pádraig O’Donnell 5-25 (1-0 pen, 0-17f, 0-4 ‘65s); Zak Moradi 3-7; Clement Cunniffe 0-16 (11f, 2 ‘65s); Colm Moreton 0-8; Karl McDermott 0-5; Cathal O’Donovan, James Glancy 0-4 each; Liam Moreton 0-3; David McGovern, Gavin O’Hagan 0-2 each; Morgan Quinn, Declan Molloy (f), Conor Byrne (f) 0-1 each.
Warwickshire’s Lory Meagher Cup scorers 2017: Liam Watson 5-27 (0-11f, 0-2 ’65s, 1 s-l); Shane Caulfield 1-25 (0-7f); Ian Dwyer 2-10; Paul Uniacke 3-3; Seán Hennessy 0-11 (8f, 1 ’65); Emmet McCabe 0-7; Kelvin McGee 1-3; Colm McBride, John Reddin 1-0 each; Pádraic Crehan 0-3; Conor Robins, Paul Hoban (1f) 0-2 each; Joe Meagher, Donnacha Kennedy 0-1 each.
Lory Meagher Cup top scorers 2017:
Ronan Crowley (Lancashire) 3-57
Liam Watson (Warwickshire) 5-27
Pádraig O’Donnell (Leitrim) 5-25
Seán Corrigan (Fermanagh) 4-27
Cormac Behan (Sligo) 4-22
Lancashire sharp-shooter Ronan Crowley was the runaway top scorer of the Lory Meagher Cup with a huge 3-57 tally that included a haul of 20 points against Cavan.
Warwickshire’s star forward Liam Watson is next despite sitting out their last group game, with Leitrim talisman Pádraig O’Donnell two points behind, edging ahead of Seán Corrigan, who was the shining light in a disappointing campaign for Fermanagh. Sligo’s Cormac Behan completes the top five, with Warwickshire’s Shane Caulfield within striking distance.