Ring, Rackard, Meagher Cup previews
The 2022 Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups get underway this weekend.
Christy Ring Cup
The first game of the Christy Ring Cup sees London return to the competition with a home game against Sligo in Ruislip on Saturday.
London are back in the Christy Ring Cup for the first time since 2019 after travel restrictions kept them out in the last two years, although they have got a league campaign under their belts this spring. Both London and Sligo competed in Division IIB of the Allianz Hurling League, where a third-round win helped the Connacht men to pip the Exiles to a semi-final place. Sligo went on to edge out Donegal to reach the decider and although a narrow loss to Derry denied them a third consecutive promotion, they still remain one of the most upwardly-mobile counties in hurling. Derry also ended Sligo’s Christy Ring Cup hopes last year after they battled their way into the last four.
Padraig Mannion will be hoping that top marksman Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch, who enjoyed another prolific league, can recover quickly from an injury that kept him out of the starting team last weekend. Andrew Kilcullen, Joe McHugh and Rory Hannify should also play key roles for Sligo. Ronan Crowley, Dónal Hannon, Jack Goulding and Fiachra O’Keeffe can provide multiple scoring threats for London.
Derry will be looking to build momentum when they host Wicklow on Sunday.
Derry take a six-match winning run into this one, having claimed the Allianz Hurling League Division IIB title last weekend. In contrast, Wicklow took until their sixth outing – a closely-contested relegation play-off against Mayo – to get their only win of the campaign. Both of these teams had the misfortune to run into a rampant Offaly side in the latter stages of this competition last year: Wicklow in the semi-finals and Derry in the decider.
Derry, who were comprehensive winners away to Wicklow in February, have had a good spread of scorers so far this year. Free-taker Cormac O’Doherty has 40 points to his name, but the likes of Odhrán McKeever, Gerard Bradley and Déaglán Foley have also contributed handsomely. Seánie Germaine was Wicklow’s talisman for much of the league, hitting 2-30 in five games, but they edged out Mayo despite his absence, with the likes of John Doyle, Brandon Ryan, Mark Murphy and Kieran Conway stepping up.
2020 champions Kildare return to the Christy Ring Cup with a trip to Ballina to face Mayo.
Kildare pushed Carlow and Westmeath all the way in the Joe McDonagh Cup last summer, before losing to Meath in the relegation play-off. Another draw with Carlow and a narrow win over Down proved enough for David Herity’s side to retain their Allianz Hurling League Division IIA status, while 2021 Nickey Rackard Cup winners Mayo slipped into Division IIIA after a one-point loss to Wicklow a fortnight ago.
Kildare will be looking to Jack Sheridan, Gerry Keegan and Brian Byrne to lead the way, while Shane Boland, Seán Kenny and veteran Keith Higgins will be key to Mayo’s chances of an upset.
Nickey Rackard Cup
2021 runners-up Tyrone begin the Nickey Rackard Cup with a trip to face Warwickshire on Sunday.
Like London, Warwickshire are back in championship action for the first time since 2019, while Tyrone (after finally clearing the semi-final hurdle last year) are hoping to go one step further this time. These teams experienced contrasting fortunes in Division IIIA of the Allianz Hurling League. A six-game unbeaten run saw Tyrone clinch the title, while Warwickshire were relegated behind Louth on score difference.
Damian Casey continues to be Tyrone’s talisman, hitting 3-57 across their successful league campaign, while Dermot Begley, Bryan McGurk, Rory Weir and former Antrim dual player CJ McGourty can also contribute plenty for Michael McShane’s charges. Warwickshire will need the likes of John Collins, Kelvin Magee and Pádraic Crehan on top form if they are to rip up the form book.
The Athletic Grounds is the venue for the third meeting of Armagh and Roscommon in just over a month.
Roscommon won by a point at Sunday’s venue to secure home advantage for the sides’ rematch in the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIA semi-final, but Armagh turned the tables on them at Dr. Hyde Park, only to then fall just short in the decider against neighbours Tyrone. Roscommon, who beat Armagh in Nickey Rackard Cup finals in 2007 and 2015, managed to establish themselves at Christy Ring level in the last few years, but they were relegated last year.
A consistent marksman over recent seasons, Cathal Dolan has 1-47 to his credit so far this year, while Brendan Mulry and Mickey Joe Egan have shown a real eye for goal for Roscommon, who are managed by Clare native Francis O’Halloran. Armagh have their own goal-poachers in Danny Magee and Eoin McGuinness, while Dean Gaffney and keeper Simon Doherty are also among the main men for the Orchard County.
2021 Lory Meagher Cup winners Fermanagh return to Nickey Rackard level with an Ulster derby at home to Donegal.
Having lost the final in 2020, Fermanagh got over the line last year and they enter this campaign with more silverware banked after they won the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIB last weekend. They will be facing a step-up in class, however, when they face a Donegal side who won four of their five group games in Division IIB, before letting a healthy lead slip against Sligo at the semi-final stage.
Donegal have been boosted by the return to their ranks of talented Tipperary native Davin Flynn, who was the top scorer in Division IIB with 1-45. Danny Cullen, Richie Ryan and Ronan McDermott should also be to the fore for Mickey McCann’s side. Fermanagh will need Seán Corrigan, Daniel Teague, Luca McCusker, Tom Keenan and Ryan Bogue on top form.
Lory Meagher Cup
Lancashire make their return to the Lory Meagher Cup when they face Louth at Abbottstown.
Two-time runners-up Lancashire returned to action this spring, where their only win in Division IIIB was at the expense of Cavan. Louth, who won their second Lory Meagher title in 2020, clung onto Division IIIA status this spring at the expense of Warwickshire.
Danny Connolly, David Power and Jordan McAllister have been regulars on the scoresheet so far this year for Lancashire, with Conor Deane, Paul Mathews, Mark Gahan and Seán Kerris doing likewise for Louth. The fitness of star forward Darren Geoghegan, who missed the last two rounds of the league, will be key to the Wee County’s prospects.
Two former champions cross paths when Leitrim welcome Longford to Carrick-on-Shannon.
Longford have already beaten Leitrim twice in just over a month, including in the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIB semi-final. Leitrim dropped down from the Nickey Rackard last year, while Longford lost to eventual winners at the penultimate stage of the Lory Meagher.
New Longford manager Adrian Moran has added to his options by recruiting fellow Westmeath natives Paddy Lynam and Emmet Corrigan, with Joe O’Brien, Cathal Mullane and Reuben Murray remaining as mainstays. Joe Murray, Gavin O’Hagan and goal-poacher James McNabola will carry the bulk of Leitrim’s scoring threat.
The other Lory Meagher fixture is an Ulster derby between Monaghan and Cavan in Inniskeen.
It’s a first senior hurling meeting of the neighbouring counties in more than a decade. After making a breakthrough by qualifying for last year’s Lory Meagher final, where they lost to Fermanagh, Cavan have had a frustrating time of it so far in 2022, with four straight losses seeing them finish bottom of Division IIIB. Meanwhile, Monaghan secured their place in Division IIIA for 2023 with a couple of rounds to spare.
Monaghan will be looking for big performances from Fergal Rafter, Mark Treanor, Patrick Finnegan and Declan Hughes, while James Smith, Diarmaid Carney and Fiachra Hughes should be central to Cavan’s chances of returning to winning ways.
Saturday, April 9
Christy Ring Cup Round 1
London v Sligo, Ruislip, 2pm
Sunday, April 10
Christy Ring Cup Round 1
Derry v Wicklow, Celtic Park, 1pm
Mayo v Kildare, Ballina, 1pm
Nickey Rackard Cup Round 1
Warwickshire v Tyrone, Páirc na hÉireann, 12.30pm
Armagh v Roscommon, Athletic Grounds, 2pm
Fermanagh v Donegal, Maguiresbridge, 2pm
Lory Meagher Cup Round 1
Lancashire v Louth, Abbottstown, 12pm
Leitrim v Longford, Carrick-on-Shannon, 2pm
Monaghan v Cavan, Inniskeen, 2pm