Declan Molloy, Leitrim, and Edmond Kenny, Lancashire, pictured ahead of the Lory Meagher Cup Final at Croke Park.
Declan Molloy, Leitrim, and Edmond Kenny, Lancashire, pictured ahead of the Lory Meagher Cup Final at Croke Park.

Preview: Lory Meagher Cup Final

Saturday June 22

Lory Meagher Cup Final

Lancashire v Leitrim, Croke Park, 12pm

Starting the triple-bill of hurling finals at Croke Park on Saturday is the Lory Meagher Cup decider between Leitrim and Lancashire.

This game pits the runners-up from the last two years against each other. Lancashire made it to Croke Park last year, when they were denied a first title by an added-time goal that decided a thriller in favour of a Sligo side who have since reached the Nicky Rackard decider. Leitrim reached their first Lory Meagher Final 12 months earlier when they lost to another English-based team, Warwickshire.

Both teams have put disappointing Allianz Hurling League campaigns behind them to qualify from a competitive group stage, where three of the four teams earned four points. Lancashire, who were relegated back down to Division 3B after winning that title last year, opened their Lory Meagher campaign with a two-point win over Leitrim. The Exiles lost to Fermanagh in round two, but a comprehensive victory against Cavan saw them through. Leitrim’s opening-round defeat left them with no margin for error, but they saw off Cavan, before claiming the five-point win over Fermanagh that they needed to pip the Erne County for second place on score difference.

Lancashire hit 1-61 in their three group games for an average score of 21.33 points, marginally less than Leitrim, who racked up 5-49. Lancashire have the edge in the sides’ defensive records, having conceded 4-35, compared to Leitrim’s 2-52.

Lancashire have a potential trump card in former Cork minor Ronan Crowley, who has been their talisman in recent years and is on course to top the Lory Meagher charts for a third straight campaign. Lancashire, who are captained by Wexford native Greg Jacob, will also be looking for big performances from Edmond Kenny, JJ Dunphy, Dáire Maskey and Darren Crowley.

Leitrim hurling was boosted by Carrick-on-Shannon winning a first Connacht Club title last November and while that may have contributed to a difficult start to 2019 for the county team, they are now on the brink of a breakthrough victory of their own. Veteran Clement Cunniffe (son of Leitrim manager Martin) is back spearheading their attack, but he now has good support from Gavin O’Hagan, Colm Moreton and Cork native Ben Murray. Karl McDermott, James Glancy, Stephen Goldrick and Liam Moreton could also play key roles for Leitrim, who are captained by goalkeeper Declan Molloy.

This pairing saw their opening-round clash go down to the wire, while last year’s Allianz Hurling League Division IIIB Final between the teams went to extra-time, with Lancashire eventually winning both games. Another close finish could be on the cards.

Lancashire’s Lory Meagher Cup scorers 2019: Ronan Crowley 1-38 (28fs, 2 ‘65s); Darren Crowley 0-7; JJ Dunphy 0-4; Colm Doherty, Tommy Maher 0-3 each; David Power 0-2; Ronan McAteer (f), Conor Duggan, Daragh O’Brien, Eoin Doyle 0-1 each.

Leitrim’s Lory Meagher Cup scorers 2019: Gavin O’Hagan 0-17 (10fs, 1 ’65); Ben Murray 1-12, Clement Cunniffe 2-7 (3fs, 1 ‘65), Colm Moreton 2-5; Karl McDermott 0-3; Cathal O’Donovan 0-2; Stephen Goldrick, Adam Byrne, Enda Moreton 0-1 each.

Lory Meagher Cup top scorers 2019:

Ronan Crowley (Lancashire) 1-38

John Duffy (Fermanagh) 0-25

Gavin O’Hagan (Leitrim) 0-17

Diarmaid Carney (Cavan) 0-16

Ben Murray (Leitrim) 1-12

Lancashire sharp-shooter Ronan Crowley tops the Lory Meagher Cup scoring charts for the third year after notching 1-38 to date: one point more than he managed in his side’s three group games in 2018. That leaves the Cork native well clear of Fermanagh’s John Duffy. Leitrim duo Gavin O’Hagan and Ben Murray also make the top five, either side of Cavan youngster Diarmaid Carney.