Ring and Rackard Cups preview
The Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cup semi-finals are down for decision on Saturday.
Christy Ring Cup
After a prolific debut in the Christy Ring Cup last Saturday, Offaly return to Newry to take on Down.
Four-time All-Ireland champions Offaly hit 32 points when seeing off Derry at Páirc Esler in their opening game, having been forced to concede their first-round game against Kildare last month after a Covid-19 case resulted in almost their entire panel being deemed as close contacts and being ruled out. The Faithful County, who are now under the guidance of eight-time All-Ireland winner Michael Fennelly, are on a mission to bounce back after being relegated from the Joe McDonagh Cup last year. 2013 champions Down have also played just once (against Derry) so far in the competition, running out narrow winners to repeat their Allianz Hurling League Division IIB Final victory, which will see them join Offaly in Division IIA for 2021.
Eoghan Cahill carried his free-scoring form for Offaly during the league (50 points in five games) into last weekend, when he shot a remarkable tally of 0-17. Liam Langton, Oisín Kelly and youngster David Nally also have plenty to contribute for Offaly, who had 11 scorers in their opening game. Oisín MacManus, Dónal Hughes and Daithí and Eoghan Sands are threats up front for Down, who will also need Conor Woods and Caolán Taggart on top form if they are to cause an upset.
Two-time Christy Ring Cup winners Kildare welcome Roscommon to Newbridge.
Kildare, who last won this competition just two years ago, are bidding to reach their fourth final at this level, with their only outing so far seeing them defeat Wicklow with seven points to spare. Roscommon fell just short with a late charge against Wicklow in their first game under Johnny Keane, but they battled past neighbours Sligo last weekend. This is a second consecutive semi-final appearance for two-time Nicky Rackard Cup winners Roscommon. These teams were separated by just a few places in the Allianz Hurling League Division IIB, with a comprehensive win over Roscommon helping Kildare finish just outside the top two.
Brian Byrne (7-37) and Jack Sheridan (7-24) were prolific for Kildare throughout the league and they continued to lead the scoring against Wicklow, with the latter netting both goals. James Burke, Cathal Dowling and Paul Divilly are also capable of making big contributions for the Lilywhites. Roscommon have the Christy Ring Cup’s current leading scorer in Cathal Dolan, who has 2-19 to his name from two games. Éamon Flanagan, Conor Mulry and Shane Curley are other key players for the visitors.
Nickey Rackard Cup
Both Nickey Rackard Cup semi-finals are local derbies.
Having already won twice in Letterkenny in recent weeks, Donegal will be targeting a third win on home soil when they face neighbours Tyrone.
Donegal edged past Longford in the first round, before knocking out Armagh a fortnight ago. Tyrone fell to heavy defeat against Mayo, but were strengthened by some returning players as they bounced back to winning ways at the expense of Monaghan last week. These counties won three Nickey Rackard titles between them during the 2010s, with Donegal winning it twice, most recently in 2018. Donegal have already beaten Tyrone once this year, en route to winning the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIA.
Donegal have injury concerns over two of their main score-getters, Declan Coulter and Davin Flynn, and they will need big performances from the likes of Danny Cullen, Ronan McDermott and Ciarán Mathewson. Damian Casey has continued to be Tyrone’s talisman throughout 2020, scoring 2-75 to date, with Bryan McGurk and Kiefer Morgan netting crucial goals against Monaghan and Conor Grogan and Matthew Mulgrew making welcome returns to their attack.
Mayo will be aiming to continue their high-scoring run when they host Leitrim.
Mayo have racked up 4-56 in comprehensive wins over Monaghan and Tyrone as they banished the memories of their Allianz Hurling League Division IIA relegation from earlier this year. These sides were separated by three tiers in the league, although Leitrim continued their upward graph by reaching the Division IIIB Final, where they gave Christy Ring debutants Sligo a scare. That followed last year’s Lory Meagher Cup success for Leitrim and although they couldn’t keep the pace with Armagh on their return to this level, they finished strongly to edge last weekend’s arm-wrestle with Longford and reach their first Nicky Rackard semi.
Shane Boland is the top marksman in the Nickey Rackard with 20 points, while Mayo have also seen Cathal Freeman, Jason Coyne, Seán Kenny and Adrian Phillips show well of late. Gavin O’Hagan has been heading the scoring charts for Leitrim, who will also need Conor Beirne and Colm and Enda Moreton on top of their game.
* TG4 will be live streaming three of Saturday’s semi-finals on YouTube, while Down v Offaly is set to be streamed live via pairctv.com.
Saturday, November 14 (all 1.30pm)
Christy Ring Cup Semi-Finals
Down v Offaly, Newry
Kildare v Roscommon, Newbridge
Nicky Rackard Cup Semi-Finals
Donegal v Tyrone, Letterkenny
Mayo v Leitrim, Castlebar