Ring, Rackard, Meagher Cups preview
The group stages of the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups reach the penultimate round this weekend.
Christy Ring Cup
Kildare will be chasing a fourth consecutive win in the Christy Ring Cup when they travel to Aughrim to face a struggling Wicklow side on Saturday.
This is a top-versus-bottom clash after three rounds, with Kildare sitting on maximum points and Wicklow yet to get off the mark after losing to Derry, Mayo and Sligo. Kildare have underlined their status as leading contenders for a fourth Christy Ring title by claiming comprehensive wins over Mayo, London and Derry. Christy Ring Cup ever-presents Wicklow reached the semi-finals last year, but they have had a challenging 2022 so far, with just one win in their last nine games.
Kildare have had a wide range of scoring threats in recent weeks, with James Burke and Jack Sheridan being well supported by the likes of Brian Byrne, Cathal McCabe, Gerry Keegan and Cathal Dowling. Wicklow have welcomed Seánie Germaine back from injury, while John Henderson made his return from a long lay-off as a sub last time out to give some much-needed help to Brandon Ryan and John Doyle, but Kildare look to hold all the aces.
Mayo and Sligo both go in on the back of wins to their Connacht derby in Ballina.
Sligo ran out six-point winners at the same venue just over two months ago – en route to contesting the Allianz Hurling League Division IIB Final – but Mayo have rediscovered the form that led to them being crowned Nickey Rackard champions last year. After losing to favourites Kildare in their opening game, Mayo have recovered impressively with back-to-back wins over Wicklow and London. Sligo, meanwhile, could take heart from elements of their performances in losing to London and Derry, before they turned that into points on the board via a prolific win against Wicklow 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 also playing key roles. Andrew Kilcullen, Gerard O’Kelly-Lynch, Joe McHugh and Conor Hannify will carry the bulk of Sligo’s scoring threat after hitting a combined 3-22 in their last game.
Derry will be looking to get back to winning ways when they welcome London to Owenbeg on Sunday.
Derry (who followed their 100% run through the Allianz Hurling League Division IIB with wins over Wicklow and Sligo) saw their eight-game winning streak ended by Kildare last time out. London, who lost heavily away to Derry in March, returned to the Christy Ring Cup for the first time since 2019 by coming from behind to defeat Sligo, but they have slipped down the standings since then after losing to Kildare and Mayo.
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. The 2021 runners-up have, however, seen their prospects hit by an injury to defender Meehaul McGrath. London will be looking to Ronan Crowley to lead their scoring, with Benny McCarry, Jack Goulding and Mark Dwyer also capable of chipping in.
Nickey Rackard Cup
Saturday’s Nickey Rackard Cup action includes a top-of-the-table clash between two former champions, Roscommon and Tyrone.
2021 runners-up Tyrone are on a nine-game unbeaten run, having backed up their Allianz Hurling League Division IIIA title by seeing off Warwickshire, Fermanagh and Armagh. Roscommon are also unbeaten in this group stage, having followed up wins over Armagh and Warwickshire with an exciting draw against Donegal.
Brendan Mulry and Mickey Joe Egan have been in fine goal-scoring form for Roscommon, who will also be looking for big performances from Daniel Glynn and Cathal Dolan. 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 (a hat-trick hero against Armagh) and CJ McGourty. These teams have hit 11 goals each in the opening three rounds, so another high-scoring duel is in prospect.
Armagh need to stop a four-game losing run when they face Fermanagh in Crossmaglen.
Despite reaching the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIA decider, Armagh have had a turbulent season, which featured a change of management, and they go into this one on the back of defeats against Roscommon, Donegal and Tyrone. Fermanagh, who backed up last year’s Lory Meagher success by clinching the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIB, have shown some good form in recent weeks. Having been very competitive in their two previous Ulster derbies against Donegal and Tyrone, Fermanagh put some points on the board in convincing style at home to Warwickshire.
Armagh, under the guidance of Antrim legend Terence McNaughton, will hope that players like Dean Gaffney, Danny Magee, Eoin McGuinness and Simon Doherty can turn their fortunes around. Barney McAuley, Seán Corrigan, Luca McCusker, Tom Keenan and Ryan Bogue all shone last time out for Fermanagh, who will be looking to secure their Nickey Rackard status.
Donegal will be expected to make it four games without defeat when they travel to Páirc na hÉireann to take on Warwickshire.
2020 champions Donegal began their current campaign with hard-earned wins over fellow Ulster sides Fermanagh and Armagh, before seeing a last-gasp goal by Ronan McDermott earn them a share of the spoils in a thriller with Roscommon. In contrast, Warwickshire have yet to win a game since returning to competitive action this year, as their relegation from Division IIIA has been followed by heavy losses to Tyrone, Roscommon and Fermanagh.
Donegal have been boosted by the return to their ranks of talented Tipperary native Davin Flynn, who has 1-72 to his name this season. Danny Cullen, Richie Ryan, Declan Coulter and McDermott should also be to the fore for Mickey McCann’s side. Warwickshire will need the likes of John Collins, Kelvin Magee and Pádraic Crehan on top of their game if they are to rip up the form book.
Lory Meagher Cup
Monaghan's deducation of four points for fielding an ineligible player in their wins over Cavan and Louth has changed the complexion of the Lory Meagher Cup table with Longford and Leitrim now joint top on four points each., Monaghan and Louth on two points each, with pointless Cavan bottom of the table.
That being the case, Monaghan's match against Longford will be pivotral this weekend. Division IIIB runners-up Longford were pipped by a late penalty against Leitrim in the first round, but they have since finished on the right side of another two close finishes against Lancashire and Louth.
Mark Treanor and Conor Gernon were in fine form last time out for Monaghan, who will hope to welcome back fellow key men Fergal Rafter and Patrick Finnegan. Longford manager Adrian Moran has added to his options by recruiting fellow Westmeath natives Paddy Lynam and Emmet Corrigan, with top scorer Joe O’Brien, Cathal Mullane and Reuben Murray remaining as mainstays.
Louth face a must-win game against Cavan if they are to retain any realistic hopes of becoming the first county to win a third Lory Meagher Cup title this year.
2020 champions Louth had far too much firepower for Lancashire on the opening day, but losses to Monaghan and Longford leave them with no more margin for error. Cavan reached the 2021 decider, where they lost to Fermanagh, but they still await their first victory of 2022. A disappointing run in Division IIIB has been followed by losses to Monaghan, Leitrim and Lancashire, leaving them as the only team yet to pick up a single point.
Louth have their talisman Darren Geoghegan back from injury absence, while they should also have Paul Mathews available after suspension. Mark Gahan, Seán Kerrisk and Feidhelm Joyce are key to Paul McCormack’s side’s prospects. Canice Maher, Fiachra Hughes and Seán Keating should be prominent for Cavan, who have been boosted by the return of Enda Shalvey and Cuala’s Cillian Sheanon.
Sunday’s Lory Meagher Cup game sees Lancashire and Leitrim face off in Dublin.
Lancashire (who reached back-to-back finals at this level in 2018 and 2019) have won two games out of seven since their return to competitive action, with both of those wins coming at the expense of Cavan. Leitrim, who had a double-scores victory over the Exiles in early February, started the Lory Meagher with back-to-back wins against Longford and Cavan, but they fell short at home to Monaghan last time out.
2019 winners Leitrim, who dropped down from the Nickey Rackard last year, have scoring power in Joe Murray, Gavin O’Hagan, Diarmuid Kelleher and goal-poacher James McNabola. Lancashire will need big contributions from Danny Connolly, Greg Jacob and David Power.
Saturday, May 7
Christy Ring Cup Round 4
Wicklow v Kildare, Aughrim, 1pm
Mayo v Sligo, Ballina, 2pm
Nickey Rackard Cup Round 4
Roscommon v Tyrone, Dr. Hyde Park, 2pm
Armagh v Fermanagh, Crossmaglen, 2pm
Warwickshire v Donegal, Páirc na hÉireann, 2pm
Lory Meagher Cup Round 4
Monaghan v Longford, Inniskeen, 2pm
Louth v Cavan, Darver, 3pm
Sunday, May 8
Christy Ring Cup Round 4
Derry v London, Owenbeg, 12pm
Lory Meagher Cup Round 4
Lancashire v Leitrim, O’Tooles (Dublin), 12.30pm