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Preview: This weekend's Joe McDonagh Cup action

Charlie Mitchell impressed for Offaly in the Allianz Hurling League. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Charlie Mitchell impressed for Offaly in the Allianz Hurling League. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Joe McDonagh Cup

Saturday April 20

Down v Meath, Ballycran, 2pm

In recent years Down have made impressive progress, but they will treat the Meath challenge with the utmost respect.

Down collected five points in Division 2A of the Allianz Hurling League, while Meath registered one win.

Pearse Óg McCrickard continues to impress for Down, who are developing nicely under Ronan Sheehan's shrewd guidance.

Meath's only league win in 2024 occurred against Kildare with Nicky Potterton and Padraig O'Hanrahan making valuable scoring contributions in that fixture.

Seoirse Bulfin stepped down as Meath manager before the Joe McDonagh Cup, but the Royals will want to produce a defiant display against Down.

Down: Stephen Keith; Matt Conlan, Conor Cassidy, Dara Mallon; Tom Murray, Caolan Taggart, Ruairí McCrickard; Donal Hughes, Tim Prenter; Paul Sheehan, Eoghan Sands, Liam Savage; Daithí Sands, Chris Egan, Pearse Óg McCrickard.

Subs: Pearce Smyth, Marc Fisher, Niall McFarland, Finn Turpin, Barry Trainor, Phelim Savage, Aodhan Furlong, Cormac McAllister, Tom McGrattan, Oisín McManus, James Dougan.

Meath: Charlie Ennis; Jarlath Ennis, Seán Geraghty, Daire Shine; Kris Gorman, James Toher, James Kelly; Simon Ennis, Niall McLarnon; Tom Shine, Seán Quigley, Seán Martin; Padraig O'Hanrahan, Nicky Potterton, Éamon Óg Ó Donnchadha.

Subs: Philly O'Brien, David Murtagh, Mark Horan, Michael Burke, Adam Kelly, Ciarán Lonergan, Domhnall Rogers, Jamie Leavy, Jack Walsh, Eoin Donegan, Josh Wall.

Sunday April 21

Laois v Offaly, Laois Hire O'Moore Park, 2pm

Laois finished the Allianz Hurling League with a flourish, securing Division 2A silverware.

The final win over Carlow featured some excellent scoring from Aaron Dunphy, Tomas Keyes, and Jer Quinlan.

Offaly operated in Division 1A and the Faithful summoned some gritty displays against talented outfits.

Johnny Kelly's developing team were exposed to a high level of opposition, but significant experience was gleaned.

Brian Duignan struck 1-7 in the draw against Wexford, while the Sampsons, Ben Conneely, Charlie Mitchell, and the promising Adam Screeney are other leading figures.

Laois: Enda Rowland; Ian Shanahan, Ryan Mullaney, Diarmuid Conway; Liam O'Connell, Padraig Delaney, Tom Cuddy; Aidan Corby, Patrick Purcell; John Lennon, Aaron Dunphy, David Dooley; Jer Quinlan, Martin Phelan, Tomás Keyes.

Subs: Cathal Dunne, Donnchadh Hartnett, Padraic Dunne, Fiachra C Fennell, Lee Cleere, Ross King, Willie Dunphy, Stephen Maher, James Duggan, Mark Dowlin, Eric Killeen.

Offaly: Mark Troy; Ben Conneely, Ciarán Burke, Cathal King; David King, Cillian Kiely, Sam Bourke; Killian Sampson, Jason Sampson; Dan Bourke, Charlie Mitchell, David Nally; Eimhin Kelly, Brian Duignan, Eoghan Cahill.

Subs: Stephen Corcoran, Leon Fox, Dan Ravenhill, Adam Screeney, Padraig Cantwell, Jack Clancy, Dara Maher, Luke Watkins, Paul Cleary, Ross Ravenhill, Oisín Kelly.

Westmeath v Kerry, TEG Cusack Park, 2pm

David Williams' prolific scoring was one of the notable features of the Allianz Hurling League.

Westmeath, operating in Division 1B, were prompted by Williams, who made a real impact for Joe Fortune's team, who have a nice mix of young and experienced players in the panel.

Kerry have been restricted by injuries so far this year with the gifted Shane Conway expected to miss the Joe McDonagh Cup through injury.

That is a setback for Stephen Molumphy's outfit, who face a tough task in the midlands on the opening weekend.

Westmeath: Noel Conaty; Johnny Bermingham, Tommy Doyle, Kevin Regan; Darragh Egerton, Aonghus Clarke, Charlie McCormack; Robbie Greville, Shane McGovern; Niall Mitchell, Killian Doyle, Owen McCabe; Darragh Clinton, Joseph Boyle, Jack Gillen.

Subs: Jamie Mulkearns, Eoin Keyes, Jordy Smyth, David Williams, David O'Reilly, Conor Gaffney, Peter Clarke, Shane Clavin, Ciaran Doyle, Conor Shaw, Cormac Boyle.

Kerry: Louis Dee; Evan Murphy, Flor McCarthy, Daithí Griffin; Kyle O'Connor, Fionán Mackessy, Eric Leen; Darragh Shanahan, Colin Walsh; Ronan Walsh, Killian Hayes, Niall Mulcahy; Luke Crowley, Michael Leane, Maurice O'Connor.

Subs: Diarmuid Quirke, Bill Keane, Brandon Barrett, Corey Murphy, Dara Kearney, Darragh Reen, David Woulfe, Gavin Dooley, Morgan Madden, Tom Doyle, Tomás O'Connor.