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Sean Kelly, Derry, and Eoghan Sands, Down, during the recent Allianz Hurling League Division 2B Final.
Sean Kelly, Derry, and Eoghan Sands, Down, during the recent Allianz Hurling League Division 2B Final.

Preview: Ring, Rackard, and Meagher Cups weekend action


The Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups continue this weekend.

Christy Ring Cup

After both having last weekend off, Down and Derry face off for the second time in three weeks in the Christy Ring Cup at Ballycran on Saturday.

Down beat Derry in the Allianz Hurling League Division 2B Final earlier this month to reverse the recent trend of this fixture. Derry beat Down twice last year, including a Christy Ring Cup opener, having also seen off their Ulster rivals in the 2018 championship, and they had another narrow win when the sides met back in January, en route to topping the Division 2B table with an unbeaten record. The Oak Leaf County ended up losing their second league final in a row, however, with goals in either half from Eoghan Sands and Pearse Óg McCrickard earning Down promotion. Both sides had a bye last weekend and will now be targeting another run to the latter stages. Christy Ring Cup ever-presents Down reached their first final since their 2013 victory last year, only to fall short against Meath, who had also ended Derry’s bid at the semi-final stage.

Oisín McManus, Daithí and Eoghan Sands and McCrickard are threats up front for Down, with Conor Woods and Caolán Taggart also playing key roles. Slaughtneil sharp-shooter Cormac O’Doherty hit 1-53 across Derry’s six league games, with Sé McGuigan and Odhrán McKeever also well capable of contributing scores.

Sunday’s Round 2A game is between Kildare and Wicklow.

These teams were separated by just a few places in the Allianz Hurling League, with Wicklow doing just enough to stay in Division 2A and Kildare narrowly missing out on the top two in Division IIB. Both counties have been ever-present at this level. Kildare have won the Christy Ring Cup twice, most recently in 2018, while two-time finalists Wicklow reached the last four in both 2017 and 2018. Wicklow got a game under their belt last weekend when they held off a strong comeback from Roscommon, while this is a first competitive outing since March for Kildare.

Wicklow were without their top marksman from the spring, Andy O’Brien, last time out, but Christy Moorehouse took over with a 2-9 tally to keep Roscommon at bay. John Henderson, Mikey Boland and Danny Staunton should also be central to Wicklow’s plans. Brian Byrne (7-37) and Jack Sheridan (7-24) were prolific for Kildare throughout the league, with Paul Divilly and James Burke also capable of making big contributions.

Nicky Rackard Cup

Like the Christy Ring Cup, the Nicky Rackard Cup also features a Saturday clash between two Ulster sides who contested an Allianz Hurling League Final earlier this year.

In this case, two of the leading Nicky Rackard contenders face off when Donegal welcome Armagh to Letterkenny. Donegal lost to Armagh at O’Donnell Park back in late January, but they have won all six of their games since then, including the Division 3A decider against the Orchard county in March. Both of these counties have won the Nicky Rackard twice, with Donegal falling back down from the Christy Ring last year after their 2018 success, while Armagh have been runners-up in four of the last five years. Donegal had to hold off a second-half comeback from Longford last weekend, while Armagh were comfortable winners against Leitrim.

Former Armagh hurler Declan Coulter has been in prolific form for Donegal this year, including in the league final, although he had to go off against Longford after leading the scoring in the first half. With Danny Cullen and Lee Henderson also absent for Donegal in round one, Ronan McDermott, Bernard Lafferty and Ciarán Mathewson were among their main men. Armagh overcame the absence of Dean Gaffney and Ciarán Clifford to ease to their opening victory, with Nathan Curry, Martin Moran, Conor Corvan and Simon Doherty key to their chances.

Damian Casey remains a key player for Tyrone.
Damian Casey remains a key player for Tyrone.

Mayo head to Ulster for the second time in a week to face Tyrone in Omagh.

Mayo underlined their credentials with a comprehensive win over Monaghan in the first round, while Tyrone had a bye. Mayo have yo-yoed between grades in league and championship in recent seasons; winning the Nicky Rackard in 2016, only to be demoted from the Christy Ring Cup in 2018. The Connacht side operated two tiers higher in the Allianz Hurling League, albeit being relegated from Division 2A, while Tyrone finished a point short of finalists Donegal and Armagh in Division 3A. 2014 champions Tyrone fell short at the semi-final stage in each of the last three years.

Shane Boland hit 12 points for Mayo last weekend, while Cathal Freeman, Seán Kenny and Adrian Phillips were also on form. Damian Casey has continued to be Tyrone’s talisman in 2020, scoring 2-58 in another prolific league campaign, with support from the likes of Matthew Mulgrew, Conor Grogan and Dermot Begley.

Lory Meagher Cup

Fermanagh will bid to continue their winning start to the Lory Meagher Cup when they host Cavan on Sunday.

A late goal by Seán Corrigan saw Fermanagh pip Louth at the finishing post last weekend to pick up their first win since January after an underwhelming Allianz Hurling League Division 3B campaign. 2015 Lory Meagher winners Fermanagh were on the brink of a place a fourth final last year after back-to-back wins in their opening round-robin games, but a defeat against eventual champions Leitrim saw them edged out of the top two on score difference. Wins have been few and far between for Cavan, but they did manage to beat their near-neighbours in this year’s league.

Fermanagh will be relying on Corrigan, John Duffy and Tom Keenan to turn the tables on Cavan here, while Colum Sheanon, Brian Fitzgerald and Seán Keating could be key to the Breffni side’s chances.

FIXTURES

Saturday October 31

Christy Ring Cup Round 2A

Down v Derry, Ballycran, 1.30pm

Nicky Rackard Cup Round 2A

Donegal v Armagh, Letterkenny, 1.30pm

Tyrone v Mayo, 2pm, Omagh

Sunday, November 1

Christy Ring Cup Round 2A

Kildare v Wicklow, Newbridge, 12.30pm

Lory Meagher Cup Round 2

Fermanagh v Cavan, Enniskillen, 2pm

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