Ring, Rackard, Meagher Cups preview
The group stages of the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups conclude on Saturday.
Christy Ring Cup
Kildare will bid to see the Christy Ring Cup group stage through with a 100% record intact when they host Sligo.
Kildare have underlined their status as leading contenders for a fourth Christy Ring title by claiming comprehensive wins over Mayo, London, Derry and Wicklow, racking up a record-breaking 14-110 on the way. Sligo, meanwhile, have had an encouraging campaign, but their only points to date came via a win over Wicklow, which was sandwiched by losses to London, Derry and Mayo.
Kildare have had a wide range of scorers in recent weeks, with leading marksman James Burke being well supported by the likes of Jack Sheridan, Brian Byrne, Cathal McCabe, Gerry Keegan and Cathal Dowling. Andrew Kilcullen, Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch, Joe McHugh and Conor Hannify will carry the bulk of Sligo’s scoring threat after accounting for all but a point of their total against Mayo.
Castlebar will be the venue for the crunch clash between Mayo and Derry.
These teams currently share second place in the table behind already-qualified Kildare, so the winners will progress to next weekend’s decider, although Derry’s superior score difference would mean that a draw would suffice for Dominic McKinley’s side. These teams experienced contrasting fortunes in Division IIB of the Allianz Hurling League, with Derry winning all six games en route to promotion and Mayo dropping down to Division IIIA. Having lost their Christy Ring Cup opener to Kildare, however, Mayo have returned to form, taking a three-game winning streak into this weekend. Kildare are also the only team to have beaten Derry, who returned to winning ways at the expense of London last time out.
Former Galway under-21 hurler Joe Mooney has made a major impact for Mayo in recent weeks, with Shane Boland, Seán Kenny and veteran Keith Higgins continuing to play key roles. Derry have plenty of players capable of making their mark on the scoresheet, with Cormac O’Doherty, Odhrán McKeever, Richie Mullan, Gerald Bradley and Déaglán Foley all contributing.
London and Wicklow conclude their campaigns in Ruislip.
It has been a challenging few weeks for both teams. London returned to the Christy Ring Cup with a hard-earned win over Sligo, but they have slipped down the standings since then after losing to Kildare, Mayo and Derry. Wicklow have won just once in ten games this year (a Division IIB relegation play-off against Mayo), with four straight defeats leaving them bottom of the table. Wicklow will be hoping to fare better than their last visit to Ruislip, which saw London run out convincing winners just over two months ago.
London will hope to bring Ronan Crowley back in, with Dónal Hannon, Benny McCarry, Jack Goulding and Mark Dwyer also capable of playing key roles. Wicklow have welcomed Seánie Germaine and John Henderson back to give some much-needed help to Brandon Ryan and John Doyle as they look to get off the mark.
Nickey Rackard Cup
A Nickey Rackard Cup Final place is on the line when Ulster rivals Tyrone and Donegal face off in Carrickmore.
Three-time Nickey Rackard winners Donegal only need a draw to secure their spot in a second final in three years, while Tyrone (2021 runners-up and champions back in 2014) need a win to leapfrog their neighbours into second place. Allianz Hurling League Division IIIA winners Tyrone saw their nine-game unbeaten run ended by Roscommon last weekend. Donegal have also been in good form this year, losing just two of their ten matches to date, including a narrow loss in a Division IIB semi-final against Sligo. They drew with Roscommon in round three, with wins over Fermanagh, Armagh and Warwickshire leaving them poised to qualify.
Damian Casey continues to lead by example for Tyrone, with plenty of support from the likes of Ruairí Slane, Rory Weir and former Antrim duo Tiarnan Murphy and CJ McGourty. Donegal will be looking to Davin Flynn, Danny Cullen, Richie Ryan, Declan Coulter and Ronan McDermott to lead the way.
Roscommon will bid to complete the round-robin stage unbeaten when they head to Enniskillen to face Fermanagh.
An emphatic win over Tyrone last time out left Roscommon top of the group, with only a last-gasp equalising goal by Donegal stopping them from having a 100% record. Fermanagh, who backed up last year’s Lory Meagher success by clinching the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIB, have just two points to their credit in this campaign (via a comprehensive win over Warwickshire), but they have been very competitive in narrow Ulster-derby defeats against Donegal, Tyrone and Armagh.
Roscommon have plenty of firepower in the likes of Daniel Glynn, Cathal Dolan, Brendan Mulry and Mickey Joe Egan, while Conor Cosgrove in excellent form last weekend. Fermanagh will need Barney McAuley, Seán Corrigan, Luca McCusker, Tom Keenan and Ryan Bogue on top form if they are to sign off with a win.
Armagh will be expected to make it back-to-back wins when they travel to Páirc na hÉireann to take on Warwickshire.
After ending a four-game losing run in an exciting finish against Fermanagh, Armagh will be looking to see out their season on a high note against a Warwickshire side who have yet to win a game since returning to competitive action this year. Armagh had five goals to spare at the same venue back in March, sealing the Exiles’ relegation to Division IIIB.
Armagh, under the guidance of Antrim legend Terence McNaughton, should be able to call on players like Dean Gaffney, Danny Magee, Eoin McGuinness and Simon Doherty. Warwickshire will need John Collins, Kelvin Magee and Pádraic Crehan on top of their game if they are to end their long wait for a win.
Lory Meagher Cup
Longford are on the brink of their first Lory Meagher Cup Final since 2013 as they make the short journey to Cavan.
All four of Longford’s games to date have gone to the wire, with Adrian Moran’s side winning their last three – against Lancashire, Louth and Monaghan – to put themselves in pole position. Last year’s runners-up Cavan have had a disappointing run in 2022, leaving them as the only team yet to pick up a point.
Paddy Lynam and Emmet Corrigan have added strength in depth for Longford, with top scorer Joe O’Brien, Cathal Mullane and Reuben Murray remaining as mainstays. Cavan will need big performances from Enda Shalvey, Fiachra Hughes, Seán Keating and Cuala’s Cillian Sheanon if they are to end their winless run.
Leitrim are also well-placed to progress, although a defeat to Louth in Ballinamore could open the door for the visitors to find a way through.
Louth, who succeeded Leitrim as Lory Meagher champions in 2020, have had a topsy-turvy campaign so far, with comprehensive wins against Lancashire and Cavan being sandwiched by losses to Monaghan and Longford. Leitrim’s only defeat to date was against Monaghan, with victories v Longford, Cavan and Lancashire putting them on track.
Leitrim, who dropped down from the Nickey Rackard last year, have scoring power in Joe Murray, Gavin O’Hagan, Diarmuid Kelleher and James McNabola. Louth have their talisman Darren Geoghegan back from injury, while Paul Mathews, Mark Gahan, Seán Kerrisk and Feidhelm Joyce are also key to Paul McCormack’s side’s prospects.
Monaghan and Lancashire finish their Lory Meagher campaigns in Inniskeen.
Monaghan were in pole position after three rounds, but after being deducted four points for fielding an ineligible player in their opening two games, a narrow loss to Longford ended their qualification hopes. Lancashire (who reached back-to-back finals at this level in 2018 and 2019) have won two games out of eight since their return to competitive action, with both of those victories coming at the expense of Cavan.
With Mark Treanor set to join Fergal Rafter in missing out through injury and with goalkeeper Hugh Byrne suspended, Monaghan are set to be depleted as the curtain comes down on what had been a promising season. Lancashire will need big contributions from Danny Connolly, Greg Jacob and David Power.
Saturday, May 14
Christy Ring Cup Round 5
Kildare v Sligo, Newbridge, 12pm
London v Wicklow, Ruislip, 1pm
Mayo v Derry, Castlebar, 1pm
Nickey Rackard Cup Round 5
Fermanagh v Roscommon, Enniskillen, 3.30pm
Tyrone v Donegal, Carrickmore, 3.30pm
Warwickshire v Armagh, Páirc na hÉireann, 3.30pm
Lory Meagher Cup Round 5
Cavan v Longford, Kingspan Breffni, 12.30pm
Leitrim v Louth, Ballinamore, 12.30pm
Monaghan v Lancashire, Inniskeen, 12.30pm