Ring, Rackard, Meagher Cups round-up
The hurlers of Meath, Down, Armagh, Lancashire and Leitrim all booked their places in championship finals on Saturday.
Christy Ring Cup
2016 champions Meath are through to another Christy Ring Cup Final after an exciting win over Derry in Armagh.
Meath had to overcome a scare here, finishing strongly to outscore the underdogs by 3-4 to 0-4 in the last 15 minutes. Jack Regan and Adam Gannon led Meath to an early lead, but Derry’s shooting was clinical throughout the first half and quick-fire goals by Sé McGuigan and Gerald Bradley handed them a five-point lead. Meath hit the last six scores of the half, however, to lead by 0-15 to 2-8, with Regan already in double figures. Richie Mullan and Cormac O’Doherty kept Derry’s tally rising after the restart, but the latter had a penalty stopped by Meath keeper Shane McGann amid a powerful finish by the favourites. Regan hit the net on his way to a tally of 1-14 and with Gavin McGowan and Nicholas Potterton adding further goals, Meath eventually pulled clear to win by 3-24 to 2-18.
Down are through to their first final since they won it in 2013 after they proved too strong for Roscommon in Inniskeen.
Down had to work hard to shrug off the challenge of a Roscommon team contesting their first semi-final at this level, with Daithí and Eoghan Sands continuing their goal-scoring form to guide the Mourne County through. Roscommon picked off the game’s first four points, including a brace from top scorer Cathal Dolan, but the Sands brothers (who had both netted hat-tricks in a comprehensive win over Donegal last week) hit the net again to lead Down to a 2-8 to 0-10 half-time lead. Naos Connaughton hit 1-2 during the final quarter as Roscommon continued to plug away, staying within four points, but they lost Éamon Flanagan and Dolan to injury and a red card, respectively. Daithí Sands added his second goal for Down and with Paul Sheehan and Oisín McManus also among their scorers, they pushed on to win by 3-18 to 1-15.
London preserved their Christy Ring Cup status by winning the relegation play-off against Donegal in Crossmaglen.
London made a dream start when Benny McCarry found the net from the game’s first attack, but Lee Henderson, who returned to the starting team after injury, helped Donegal respond strongly. Henderson won a penalty that Ciarán Matthewson converted and with that duo adding points and Joe Boyle finding his range from distance, Donegal led by 1-7 to 1-1 by the 20-minute mark. That was as good as it got, however, for the 2018 Nicky Rackard winners.
London rallied with an unanswered 1-4 to leave the sides level at 2-5 to 1-8 at half-time. David Nolan, Aaron Sheehan, Conor Doran and Shane Lawless were among the scorers for the Exiles, who managed another scoring burst midway through the second half to pull away. Henderson finished with 0-9 for Donegal, but they were reduced to 13 men by the end, with Matthewson and Mark Callaghan sent off, as London saw out a 2-18 to 1-14 win.
Nicky Rackard Cup
Sligo are through to their first Nicky Rackard decider since their 2008 success after a strong second-half performance guided them past Warwickshire at Celtic Park.
Just 12 months after winning the Lory Meagher Cup, Sligo continued their momentum here after trailing by four points at half-time. Pauric Crehan hit both goals for Warwickshire – the second coming in first-half added time – and with Willie Allen, Emmet McCabe and Niall Kennedy also on target, the Exiles opened up a 2-8 to 0-10 lead. Kevin Gilmartin hit the net for Sligo on 45 minutes and they were never headed from then on.
Keith Raymond and Gerard and Tony O’Kelly-Lynch were to the fore as Sligo moved six clear and although a brace of big points from Ian Dwyer helped close the gap to two, the likes of Kevin Banks held firm in the winners’ defence. Allen finished with 0-8 for Warwickshire, but a place in a third consecutive final in all and a chance to atone for last year’s loss to Donegal proved elusive. Dual player Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch added a late goal for Sligo, who advanced on a 2-21 to 2-17 scoreline.
Armagh are through to a record seventh Nicky Rackard Cup Final and their fourth in five years after holding off a strong challenge from neighbours Tyrone in a thriller at Inniskeen.
The teams shared the game’s first six points, before Armagh moved ahead with a long-range point from goalkeeper Simon Doherty and a major by Danny Magee. Damian Casey continued his prolific form to keep Tyrone in touch and they were within a point (1-9 to 0-11) at the change of ends. Tyrone made a flying start to the second half, rattling the woodwork, before 1-1 by Casey and a Lorcán Devlin turned their slim deficit into a four-point lead.
Casey tallied 1-13 by the end, but only one of Tyrone’s six other scorers (Bryan McGurk) managed more than a point. Armagh had a greater range of threats, with Dean Gaffney’s 0-10 being followed by Eoin McGuinness on 1-4 and Odhrán Curry (0-3). The McGuinness goal on 45 minutes was followed by a hat-trick of points from Gaffney and the two-time champions maintained a narrow lead through to the end (2-19 to 1-20), with the help of a late stop by Doherty.
Monaghan will remain in the Nicky Rackard Cup for a 16th straight year in 2020 after they pipped a dramatic relegation play-off against near-neighbours Louth in Crossmaglen.
Mark Treanor and Stephen Lambe got Monaghan off to a strong start and although Louth battled back, Brian McGuigan found the net to regain his side’s advantage. David Kettle responded for Louth, who had Darren Geoghegan (0-13) in free-scoring form again, but Fergal Rafter hit back to help Monaghan lead by 2-10 to 1-12 at the break. Sub Pádraig Fallon hit a goal that saw Louth edge in front, with Conor Flynn making an impact off the bench for Monaghan, who retook the lead with a Martin Murphy major seven minutes from time. Geoghegan and Conor Deane had Louth back on level terms, only for 14-man Monaghan to pounce late on to grab a 4-17 to 2-20 win.
Lory Meagher Cup
Final-round group wins for Lancashire and Leitrim saw them qualify for the Lory Meagher Cup Final. Fermanagh had led the standings ahead of Saturday’s action, but with three teams finishing on four points, the 2015 champions missed out on score difference.
Lancashire’s comprehensive win over Cavan in Ballyconnell saw them top the table. The Exiles were in prolific form throughout this game, as they qualified for their second consecutive final. Lancashire led by 1-16 to 1-3 at half-time, with Darren Crowley, JJ Dunphy and Tommy Maher among the visitors’ players queuing up to put their name on the scoresheet. Anthony Sheridan accounted for the bulk of Cavan’s scores on a day where their winless campaign petered out on a scoreline of 1-27 to 1-7 in favour of a dominant Lancashire side.
It went right down to the wire in Carrick-on-Shannon, where Leitrim pipped Fermanagh to the second place in the final. Leitrim needed a five-point win to edge through to a second decider in three years and they made a bright start with an early goal from Clement Cunniffe. Conor McShea found the net to help Fermanagh move ahead by the end of the opening quarter, but Ben Murray responded for Leitrim, who led by 2-6 to 1-6 at the interval. Fermanagh top scorer John Duffy kept his side in touch, but a storming finish made all the difference for Leitrim, with points from Murray and Gavin O’Hagan making the final score 2-18 to 1-16 in their favour.
Saturday, June 8
Christy Ring Cup Semi-Finals
Derry 3-24 Meath 2-18
Down 3-18 Roscommon 1-15
Christy Ring Cup Relegation Play-Off
London 2-18 Donegal 1-14
Nicky Rackard Cup Semi-Final
Armagh 2-19 Tyrone 1-20
Nicky Rackard Cup Relegation Play-Off
Monaghan 4-17 Louth 2-20
Lory Meagher Cup Round 3
Cavan 1-7 Lancashire 1-27
Leitrim 2-18 Fermanagh 1-16