Daniel Huane of Mayo pictured with the Christy Ring Cup.
Daniel Huane of Mayo pictured with the Christy Ring Cup. 

Preview: Christy Ring Cup Final - Kildare v Mayo

Christy Ring Cup Final

Kildare v Mayo, Saturday, 5.00, Croke Park. Live coverage on Spórt TG4 YouTube

By Colm Shalvey

Kildare are bidding to become the first county to win a fourth Christy Ring Cup title when they take on Mayo at Croke Park on Saturday.

Kildare were hotly tipped before the competition began to push for their third win at this level in just five years and they have powered their way to this stage, breaking scoring records along the way. Five straight wins – racking up an eye-watering 16-133, with a score difference of +96 – saw Kildare comfortably top the group. Mayo’s immediate thoughts may have centred on securing their Christy Ring status after they followed relegation from Division IIB of the Allianz Hurling League by losing heavily to Kildare in the opening round, but they have bounced back with four wins over Wicklow, London, Sligo and 2021 runners-up Derry.

Despite their relegation from the Joe McDonagh Cup last year, Kildare hurling’s trajectory remains upward, built on major strides at underage levels in recent seasons and with former Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity remaining at the helm of their senior team. Kildare will once again compete in Division IIA of the league in 2023, two tiers above Mayo, despite having to start the year without their sizeable contingent from All-Ireland Club Intermediate champions Naas.

James Burke is Kildare's top scorer in this year's Christy Ring Cup campaign. 
James Burke is Kildare's top scorer in this year's Christy Ring Cup campaign. 

Kildare have had a huge range of scorers in this campaign, with James Burke leading the way among no less than 20 players on target. The Lilywhites have the competition’s top scorer from play in Jack Sheridan, while the likes of Brian Byrne, Gerry Keegan and Mark Delaney have also been regulars on the scoresheet. Rian Boran anchors their defence at number six, with the experienced Paul Divilly (Christy Ring Cup Player of the Year in 2020) continuing to drive his side forward from midfield.

Mayo are no strangers to Croke Park either, having contested the last two Nickey Rackard Cup Finals, winning the silverware just under nine months ago. Derek Walsh’s side will be looking to make their own piece of history by securing back-to-back championship promotions and by becoming the first Connacht county to win this title. They have had to do without the experience of Cathal Freeman, Michael Morley, John Cassidy and Seán Regan, but they have benefited from the addition of Joe Mooney and Joe and Gerard McManus under the parentage rule.

Former Galway under-21 hurler Mooney has made a major impact for Mayo in recent weeks, contributing 1-15 from open play. Shane Boland has been in prolific form throughout the competition, while Kenny Feeney, Seán Kenny and veteran Keith Higgins (formerly a regular at Saturday’s venue with the Mayo footballers) are also in double figures. Stephen Coyne and Gerard McManus will be key to Mayo’s attempts to get to grips with Kildare’s free-scoring attack.

Mayo have worked wonders to turn their season around in such style, but it will take a remarkable performance for them to stop Kildare’s march.

Kildare’s Christy Ring Cup scorers 2022: James Burke 1-34 (0-25f, 0-2 ‘65s); Jack Sheridan 3-12; Brian Byrne 2-12 (0-5f); Gerry Keegan 1-12; Mark Delaney 3-5; Cathal Dowling 2-7; Shane Ryan 1-10; Cathal McCabe 1-9; Paul Divilly 1-7; Johnny Byrne 1-6; Paul Dolan 0-4; Conan Boran, Rian Boran 0-3 each; Conor Kielty, Drew Costello 0-2 each; Jack Travers, Seán Christianseen, Paddy McKenna (f), Frank Bass, Pat Leahy 0-1 each.

Mayo’s Christy Ring Cup scorers 2022: Shane Boland 1-42 (0-32f); Joe Mooney 1-15; Keith Higgins 1-10 (0-3f); Kenny Feeney 2-5 (0-1f); Seán Kenny 0-10 (4f, 1 ‘65); Joe McManus 0-8; Eoin Delaney 0-6; Daniel Huane 0-4; Adrian Phillips 0-3; David Kenny, Patrick Lyons, Mark Phillips 0-1 each.

Christy Ring Cup top scorers 2022:

Andy Kilcullen (Sligo) 3-41

Shane Boland (Mayo) 1-42

James Burke (Kildare) 1-34

Dónal Hannon (London) 1-27

Cormac O’Doherty (Derry) 0-23

For the second year in a row, Sligo have the Christy Ring Cup top scorer going into the final. Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch was overtaken in the 2021 decider by Offaly’s Eoghan Cahill, while this time around, it’s Andy Kilcullen who tops the charts on 3-41.

Both finalists have players within touching distance, with Mayo’s Shane Boland on 1-42 and Kildare’s James Burke on 1-34, despite the latter sitting out the group winners’ win over Sligo.

London’s Dónal Hannon and Derry’s Cormac O’Doherty complete the top five, with the Slaughtneil man just two points ahead of Kildare’s Jack Sheridan, who is the top scorer from play. Sheridan is currently level with O’Kelly-Lynch (0-21) and Wicklow’s Seánie Germaine (4-9).