Ring, Rackard, & Meagher Cups preview
The redrawn 2020 Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups finally get underway this weekend.
Christy Ring Cup
Roscommon host Wicklow on Sunday.
Roscommon have maintained their status in this tier since winning the 2015 Nicky Rackard Cup and they caught the eye last year in qualifying for the semi-finals, while Wicklow have been ever-present in the Christy Ring Cup, having lost consecutive finals back in 2011 and 2012. Both counties retained their status in the Allianz Hurling League after being promoted last year, with a win over Mayo proving enough for Wicklow to stay in Division IIA, while Roscommon finished mid-table in Division IIB. Roscommon changed management during the lengthy 2020 pause, with Johnny Keane taking the reins after Ciarán Comerford stepped down.
Wicklow had one of the top marksmen in Division IIA in Andy O’Brien (2-47), while John Henderson and Warren Kavanagh also have plenty to offer. Roscommon will need the likes of Cathal Dolan, Mickey Joe Egan and Cillian Egan to be on top form.
Nicky Rackard Cup
First up in the Nicky Rackard Cup on Saturday, 2018 champions Donegal host Longford.
Donegal won their second Nicky Rackard title two years ago, but were unable to last the pace at Christy Ring level last year. They turned the corner again this spring by winning the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIA, defeating fourth-placed Longford by six points on the way to a narrow win in the final against Armagh. Declan Coulter hit 0-10 in that game, with the Armagh native having recovered from an injury-ravaged 2019 campaign to lead the Donegal attack.
Danny Cullen, Gerard Gilmore and Lee Henderson should also be prominent for Donegal, while Longford will need big performances from Galway native Alan Ward, David Buckley, Cathal Mullane and Johnny Casey.
Clontibret is the venue for Monaghan v Mayo.
Monaghan are regulars at this level, having reached semi-finals in 2017 and 2018 before winning a relegation play-off against Louth last year, while Mayo have yo-yoed between grades in league and championship in recent seasons; winning the Nicky Rackard in 2016, only to be demoted from the Christy Ring Cup in 2018. These teams managed just one win between them in the Allianz Hurling League, with Monaghan doing just enough to remain in Division IIIA, while Mayo were relegated from Division IIA a year after winning a play-off against London to stay in the third tier.
Shane Boland, Cathal Freeman and Seán Kenny will be expected to lead the way for Mayo, with Monaghan needing Fergal Rafter and Mark and Peter Treanor on top of their game if they are to belie their league status.
Leitrim make their return to the Nicky Rackard Cup with an away quarter-final against Armagh.
Leitrim were promoted after winning their first Lory Meagher Cup last year and they continued their upward graph by reaching the Allianz Hurling League Division IIIB Final, where they gave Christy Ring debutants Sligo a scare last Sunday. Armagh have been the nearly-men of this competition since winning two titles in three between 2010 and 2012, as the seven-time finalists were runners-up in four of the last five years, including last year’s loss to Sligo. They were unbeaten through the group stage of their league campaign, only to lose narrowly in another decider against Donegal.
Dean Gaffney, Nathan Curry and Ciarán Clifford could be among the main men for Armagh, while Leitrim (who were without 2019 Champion 15 award winner James Glancy last time out) will be relying on influential displays from Gavin O’Hagan, Conor Beirne and Enda and Colm Moreton.
Lory Meagher Cup
Louth and Fermanagh get the Lory Meagher Cup underway in Darver.
This is the meeting of two previous Lory Meagher winners, with Louth having succeeded Fermanagh as champions in 2016. Louth lost four Nicky Rackard Finals between 2005 and 2012, but haven’t been back at that stage since and they were relegated last year after losing a play-off derby against Monaghan. Fermanagh were on the brink of a place in the 2019 Lory Meagher final after back-to-back wins in their opening round-robin games, but a defeat against eventual champions Leitrim saw them edged out of the top two on score difference. Neither side will reflect with fondness on the 2020 Allianz Hurling League, where Louth slipped out of Division IIIA, despite putting it up to both eventual finalists Armagh and Donegal, while Fermanagh could only manage one win in the bottom tier.
Darren Geoghegan, Ryan Walsh, Robert Grace and Darren O’Hanrahan could be central to Louth’s plans, with Fermanagh looking to John Duffy, Caolán Duffy, Barry McPhillips and Tom Keenan to lead the way.
Saturday October 24
Nicky Rackard Cup Round 1
Donegal v Longford, Letterkenny, 1pm
Monaghan v Mayo, Clontibret, 2pm
Armagh v Leitrim, 4pm, Athletic Grounds
Lory Meagher Cup Round 1
Louth v Fermanagh, Darver, 2pm
Sunday, October 25
Christy Ring Cup Round 1
Roscommon v Wicklow, Dr. Hyde Park, 1.30pm