Christy Ring Cup 2A
Derry v Offaly
Saturday, Newry, 1.30pm
Derry’s defeat to Down last weekend was another hammer blow to the confidence of John McEvoy’s charges.
After losing to Down in the National League Division 2B decider, a win in the Christy Ring would have lifted spirits in the camp. Instead they sacrificed a three-point lead at the finish to allow Down direct passage into the semi-finals. Now Derry must beat Offaly to confirm their place in the next round.
The goal is to get themselves back on track in the qualifier route of the Christy Ring Cup.
All hope is not gone. A win will get them back on track and into the semi-finals.
Last year Down reached the Christy Ring finals after losing their opener to Derry.
Similarly, the 2018 champions Carlow lost to Antrim in round one and went on to win the title outright, getting revenge over the Saffrons in the decider.
So Derry’s hopes are not forlorn.
Frustration, perhaps, is the main emotion among the panel. They will feel that they should have put Down away in their clash last weekend. In the final minutes of the game they were three points up. Unfortunately they were a man down after Paddy Kelly had been sent off.
They were also playing against a Down team full of confidence and Ronan Sheehan’s team battled back to a three-point victory, 1-13 to 0-13.
Perhaps preparations were an issue. Both teams had the weekend off, though Down’s time away from action was more settled than Derry’s. While Down could celebrate their promotion to Division 2A, Derry were supposed to square up to Sligo. However the Yeatsmen declared that they would not be fielding. So Derry went from being prepped for a competitive clash to having no game at the weekend.
Down had started the better, and were ahead by 0-7 to 0-5 at half time. Thanks to Mark McGuigan, Cormac O’Doherty, Mark Craig and Conor Kelly the Oakleafers were able to battle their way back into the game. However, they were hit by that late goal from Donal Hughes and they shipped three more points to lose. Down would say that it was their confidence that got them over the line, but Derry must take some of the blame for not concentrating in those final moments.
Down didn’t give up many frees in the match. Derry’s main free taker Cormac O’Doherty only scored five points from frees. Derry’s scoring spread was low.
Just five players registered points. Though the same could be said for Down, who also only had five players on the score sheet.
A positive for Derry was that Richie Mullan was able to play. He had went off injured against Down in the league final clash. But he was fit to play the full game last weekend.
Offaly have had a unsettled season. They were due to play Kildare in their opening Christy Ring Cup clash. Yet in the days before the game the Faithful county informed the GAA that they could not fulfil the fixture because one of their players had tested positive for Covid-19.
They had wanted to postpone the game, but that is not allowed in the current circumstances with the GAA demanding games to be played. Therefore they had to concede and Kildare went through to the next round and beat Wicklow to earn their place in the semi-finals.
Offaly are going to be a very difficult test for Derry. They are a division 2A side, and won three of their five games played this year. Their defeats came against Antrim and Kerry.
They have a string of scoring threats that will need to be watched very carefully. The likes of Liam Langton, Eoghan Cahill and Thomas Geraghty can put big scores up.
Derry must expect Offaly to come out firing.
They will want to start strong and Derry’s goal will be under attack from early on.
Nickey Rackard Cup Round 2B
Monaghan v Tyrone
Saturday, Clontibret, 1.30pm
The meeting of Tyrone and Monaghan in the Nickey Rackard Cup is a meeting of two teams whose fortunes have taken a dip at the hands of Mayo.
Monaghan played Mayo two weeks ago and while they put up 2-10 their Connacht opponents hammered in 3-32.
Tyrone suffered a similar defeat last weekend, 1-23 to 0-9. If we were to take the performance of those two teams against Monaghan we could conclude that they are operating at a similar level. Monaghan were 15 points worse off against Mayo, Tyrone were down 17. We could take it a step further and point out that Tyrone’s defence were better, conceding 26 while Monaghan shipped 41.
Another conclusion to take is that Monaghan’s attack is in better shape than Tyrone’s.
Those numbers don’t match up with league form. Tyrone’s attack was markedly better in their five league games. Their attack averaged almost 23 points per game. Monaghan’s was 14. In terms of defence, Tyrone’s average concession was slightly over 20. Monaghan’s was 22.
So both teams are not operating at the level they were during their league campaigns.
Though the key statistic is that Mayo are a good deal better than both teams and if either side want to make their mark in this year’s Nickey Rackard competition they are going to have to make a good deal of improvement in the next couple of weeks.
If Tyrone are looking for excuses, they might point to their weakened squad. Damian Casey, their usually reliable scorer, was off his game.
They were behind by 0-14 to 0-3 at half time. Mayo got their goal soon after half time and that finished off the Red Hand’s chances.
Monaghan have had an extra week to prepare for this game and that might help them.
The Farney had suffered a similar fate to Tyrone, as they were blased in the first half by Mayo’s firepower.
The likelihood of either team reaching the final of the Nickey Rackard Cup final is slim based on the evidence of their performances so far.
Going on league evidence, we might opt to go for Tyrone. The Red Hands beat Monaghan 2-17 to 1-7 in February.
Yet that win was built upon Damian Casey accuracy from frees.
The Red Hand team has not been full strength this year so it might be best not to read too much into that performance. Yet Tyrone should still remain slight favourites. Monaghan were in the relegation frame last year, but beat Louth by 4-17 to 2-20 to make sure that they stayed at this level.
The other positive for the Farney is that they were able to put up good score against Mayo. They have some very good players, like Aidan Burns for example who got both goals a fortnight ago. Fergal Rafter will also be important as he will be on free taking duties.
Monaghan, if they put in a good shift, could actually get a win this weekend and that would undoubtedly lift their spirits after a few years when they haven’t had an awful lot to be happy about. Yet the chances of either of these teams getting past Donegal in the next round are slim. The Tir Chonaill men beat Armagh and look to be in very good shape indeed.
Lory Meagher Cup
Cavan v Louth
Sunday, Kingspan Breffni Park, 2pm
Cavan’s Lory Meagher Cup campaign continues this weekend and there will be a modicum of optimism in the camp based on their performances so far this season.
They drew with Fermanagh in last weekend’s match, a better start than last year when Cavan played three games in the Lory Meagher cup and lost them all.
Their league form this season saw them pick up a victory in Division 3B, that was against Fermanagh. Getting that result, probably made the Breffni stick men feel that they could get a result against Fermanagh. Championship is a different beast of course, but Cavan are certainly showing signs of improvement.
The draw means that Fermanagh are the first Lory Meagher finalists. Cavan must beat or draw with Louth to earn that place in the decider.
The Covid-19 pandemic has robbed the competitoin of the presence of Warwickshire and Lancashire who played last season. But no travel across the Irish seas means there are just three teams. That’s perhaps to Cavan’s benefit as they have a chance to get to a final.
But the question that is being asked is, can they beat Louth?
Fermanagh only beat the Wee county by a point, so this will be a stiff test for Cavan. But it’s intriguing tie nonetheless and a chance to take on Fermanagh again and win a Lory Meagher title should provide extra motivation.