Sean Donaghy, Tyrone, and Sean Kenny, Mayo, in Nicky Rackard Cup action.
Sean Donaghy, Tyrone, and Sean Kenny, Mayo, in Nicky Rackard Cup action.

Ring and Rackard Cup round-up

The 2019 Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cups got underway over the weekend, with eight opening-round group games.

Christy Ring Cup Group 1 Round 1

Derry 3-20 Down 2-14

Wicklow 4-12 Donegal 1-15

Christy Ring Cup Group 2 Round 1

Roscommon 0-20 Kildare 1-15

Meath 2-23 London 0-13

Nicky Rackard Cup Group 1 Round 1

Armagh 2-20 Monaghan 2-14

Warwickshire 1-15 Longford 1-12

Nicky Rackard Cup Group 2 Round 1

Louth 1-19 Sligo 2-24

Tyrone 1-15 Mayo 0-15

Christy Ring Cup

Derry made a flying start to the Christy Ring Cup when they ran out 3-20 to 2-14 winners over Ulster rivals Down at Portaferry on Saturday.

Despite playing into the breeze in the first half, Derry took charge of the game after an early goal from Cormac O’Doherty. The Slaughtneil forward then saw his ’65 find the net to push Derry further clear and a third goal followed from club-mate Sé McGuigan to help the visitors to a commanding 3-9 to 1-5 half-time lead. O’Doherty and McGuigan kept Derry’s tally rising throughout the second half and although Paul Sheehan and Oisín McManus were among the scorers for Down, who also saw Ruairí McCrickard come off the bench to net a free. Derry lost Cian Waldron to a second yellow card, but they had already built the foundations for a fine opening win.

The other Group 1 game saw Donegal fall short despite a spirited effort on their Christy Ring Cup debut on Sunday in Letterkenny, where a Gary Hughes hat-trick for Wicklow proved decisive.

Lee Henderson got Donegal off to a flyer with an early goal and his accuracy helped the hosts lead by 1-6 to 0-2 approaching the half-hour mark. Hughes hit back with his first goal, however, to bring Wicklow within two points (1-7 to 1-5) at the interval. Henderson and Ciarán Matthewson finished with a combined 1-11 for Donegal, but the absence of injured forward Declan Coulter didn’t help their cause and Wicklow took over after the restart, with Hughes plundering 2-2 within ten minutes. Christy Moorehouse and Ronan Keddy were also among the scorers for Wicklow and with Jonathan O’Neill coming on to hit 1-1, they secured a winning start on a scoreline of 4-12 to 1-15.

The stand-out result of the opening round arguably came in Athleague, where Roscommon turned over holders Kildare.

Roscommon lost by 26 points when these teams met at the same stage last year, but they claimed a valuable win here by 0-20 to 1-15. Roscommon made a bright start in a first half that saw the sides draw level four times, ending with the hosts ahead by the narrowest of margins (0-8 to 0-7). The sides were on terms on another six occasions during the second half, with Brian Byrne’s accuracy and a Jack Sheridan goal moving Kildare ahead at the hour-mark, only for Roscommon to produce a grandstand finish. Roscommon, who had Peter Kellihan sent off early in the second half, scored the final five points through Dara Heavy, Conor Mullery, Noel Fallon, Shane Curley and Cathal Dolan to earn a big result.

Last year’s runners-up were also beaten as London were no match for Meath in Navan.

London’s woes started long before throw-in as their gear apparently got lost getting off their flight, leading to their charges having to play using borrowed hurls. Pádraig O’Hanrahan and Jack Regan were on song as Meath started strongly and when goals from Eamon Ó Donnchadha and Alan Douglas followed, they were 2-11 to 0-5 clear by the end of a one-sided first half. London managed to compete better in the second half, but they never looked like bridging the gap and Meath ran out convincing winners by 2-23 to 0-13 to start their bid to return to the Joe McDonagh Cup.

Nicky Rackard Cup

Armagh started the Nicky Rackard Cup by winning a well-contested Ulster derby at home to Monaghan on Saturday.

After falling two points down early on, Monaghan struck the first goal through Taidhg Campbell and the sides would go on to be on level terms six times during the first half. Dean Gaffney’s accuracy from frees and scores by Paul Gaffney and Nathan Curry edged Armagh ahead towards half-time, but Monaghan hit back to equalise at 1-9 to 0-12. Martin Murphy and Campbell helped Monaghan edge ahead after the restart and even after Dylan McKenna hit the net for Armagh, Fergal Rafter tucked away a penalty to leave the away side narrowly ahead at the three-quarter mark. Another penalty saw Nathan Curry swing the momentum back in Armagh’s favour as they hit 1-6 of the game’s last 1-7 to win by 2-20 to 2-14.

Sligo marked their return to the Nicky Rackard by defeating Louth at Dowdallshill.

Keith Raymond hit an early goal for Sligo and although Seaghán Conneely responded for Louth, the 2018 Lory Meagher winners were the front-runners for most of the first half. An inexperienced Louth side had fallen five points down, but they finished the half with a flourish, as Darren Geoghegan’s accuracy and some fine saves by goalkeeper Dónal Connolly helped them get level at 1-13 apiece. Geoghegan would finish his debut in the competition with 12 points, but Sligo had more scoring power overall, led by veteran Keith Raymond with 2-5. Gary Cadden, Shane Crowley and Tony and Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch were also among the scorers as Sligo won out by 2-24 to 1-19.

Sunday saw last year’s beaten finalists Warwickshire take full points from their trip to Longford.

Longford made the first big breakthrough with a David Buckley goal, but Niall Kennedy netted a penalty to give Warwickshire a boost near the end of the opening half. The Exiles were 1-8 to 1-4 up at the break and with John Collins and Breen Fallon prominent, they remained ahead to the end. Longford did reduce the gap to the minimum going into the last ten minutes, only for Warwickshire to hit four of the game’s last five points.

Tyrone made a fine start to Group 2 in front of their home fans at Healy Park by getting the better of Mayo.

Mayo were in the Christy Ring Cup last year and were two tiers above Tyrone in the 2019 Allianz Hurling League, but Damian Casey’s tour de force went a long way towards deciding this one. Mayo hit three of the game’s first five points in an even start, but Casey then rifled in 1-3 in quick succession to hand Tyrone the initiative. Seán Kenny and Kieran Kiely helped bring Mayo’s deficit back down to the minimum, but with Casey finishing the first half on 1-7, Tyrone changed ends ahead by 1-8 to 0-9. Shane Boland and Kenny tried to keep Mayo in touch, but Casey finished up with 1-12 as Tyrone wrapped up a notable win by 1-15 to 0-15.