By Shaun Casey
THE pre-season hurling competitions continue this weekend for Down and Antrim, who are involved in the Walsh and Kehoe Cups respectively. Both counties also entered Ulster’s preseason tournament, the McGurk Cup, so plenty of players earned lots of game time.
Last year’s Joe McDonagh Cup winners Antrim take on Galway on Saturday, following recent clashes with Dublin and Westmeath. Their encounter with the Dubs was of a great standard, particularly at this time of year.
But ultimately it was Dublin who came out on top of the five-goal thriller, winning 3-26 to 2-22 in the end. Niall McKenna and Rian McMullan hit the net for the Saffron’s while James McNaughton and Neil McManus split 0-8 between them.
Their second round clash with Westmeath wasn’t as high scoring, but still ended in defeat for Darren Gleeson’s men, who also meet Donegal in the semi-final of the McGurk Cup.
Galway on the other hand dismissed Westmeath by 17 points and downed the Dubs with a nine-point victory. Antrim begin their league campaign with a home tie against Kilkenny, so another good performance this weekend will fill them with confidence.
Down take on Kildare this Sunday in the third round of the Kehoe Cup, with a final round against Wicklow coming up next weekend. Like their northern neighbours, Down have yet to experience a victory in the Leinster pre-season competition.
Meath proved too strong on the first day out, winning 2-24 to 1-16 while Carlow saw out a five-point victory over the Mourne men, 1-25 to 1-20.
Ronan Sheehan has taken a look at a number of squad members between the Kehoe Cup and McGurk Cup, which can only help when they begin their National League campaign.
Down face Offaly in the opening round of the league, at home, and all the main focus will be on that fixture and getting off to a good start.