Preview: Lory Meagher Cup Final - Monaghan v Lancashire
Lory Meagher Cup Final
Lancashire v Monaghan, Saturday, 1.00, Croke Park (Live coverage on Spórt TG4 YouTube)
Saturday’s triple-header of hurling deciders at Croke Park gets underway with the Lory Meagher Cup decider, where Lancashire and Monaghan will both be bidding to add their name to the roll of honour.
Lancashire are hoping to make it third-time lucky after falling to narrow defeats against Sligo and Leitrim (the latter after extra-time) in back-to-back final appearances in 2018 and 2019, while Monaghan are returning to GAA HQ after an absence of over 40 years, although several of their Castleblayney contingent contested the 2019 All-Ireland JHC Final.
Both sides experienced bumps on the road during the group stage. Division IIIA semi-finalists Monaghan took just a single point from their first two games – having let a big lead slip in an opening-round draw with Leitrim – but three consecutive wins over Warwickshire, Lancashire and Longford saw Arthur Hughes’ men finish top. Lancashire won their first two games v Longford and Leitrim, before losses to Cavan and Monaghan left them fourth heading into the last round. They won an eight-goal Páirc na hÉireann derby against Warwickshire on the last day of the group stage and with other results going their way, they managed to overtake both Cavan and Longford.
Having hit the net 20 times in the Lory Meagher to date, Lancashire have been the most potent goal-scoring team of 2023; being held goalless just once in nine games. A Ray McCormack hat-trick last time out took his tally this season to a remarkable 10-10, while Conor Kennedy has also hit the net seven times between league and championship. Free-taker Robin Spencer, Shane Madden, Darragh Carroll, Eoghan Kelly, Éamonn Kearns and Eoghan Clifford are also capable of playing key roles for Liam Knocker’s side.
Despite Fergal Rafter’s season being hampered by injury, the addition of Niall Arthur and Ethan Flynn has added a new dimension to Monaghan’s attack, while Thomas Hughes also takes a hot streak of form into the weekend after hitting four goals in their last three games. Colin Merrick, Niall Garland, Kevin Crawley and Patrick Finnegan should also play central roles for the first-time finalists.
Lancashire’s Lory Meagher Cup scorers 2023: Robin Spencer 3-23 (2-17f); Ray McCormack 7-8 (1-0 pen); Conor Kennedy 4-4; Darragh Carroll 3-6; Conor Madden 2-9 (0-1f); Shane Madden 0-9; Eoghan Kelly 1-2; Eoghan Clifford 0-4; Dermot Duffy 0-3; Cormac Kenny, Finn Henry 0-2 each; Shane Nugent, Éamonn Kearns, Conor O’Shea, David Burke 0-1 each.
Monaghan’s Lory Meagher Cup scorers 2023: Niall Arthur 1-47 (0-21f, 0-3 ‘65s); Thomas Hughes 4-12; Ethan Flynn 2-12 (0-2f); Niall Garland 0-11; Fergal Rafter 2-2 (0-2f); Declan Hughes, Conor Gernon 0-5 each; Stephen Lambe 0-3; Colin Merrick 1-0; Kevin Crawley 0-1.
Lory Meagher Cup top scorers 2023:
Canice Maher (Cavan) 1-50
Niall Arthur (Monaghan) 1-47
Cathal Mullane (Longford) 0-34
Joe Murray (Leitrim) 2-27
Robin Spencer (Lancashire) 3-23
Two players have reached the 50-point mark in this year’s Lory Meagher Cup, with Canice Maher of Cavan currently holding a narrow lead over Niall Arthur, who will be hoping to add to his tally for Monaghan on Saturday. Just two points separate the next three players in the standings, with Lancashire free-taker Robin Spencer well placed to overtake both Longford’s Cathal Mullane and Joe Murray of Leitrim.