This coming weekend sees a raft of Championship matches taking place in both football and hurling. The county’s hurlers are in action on Sunday, as they play their first Group 1 tie in the Nicky Rackard Cup, a match that sees them up against Tyrone at Healy Park in Omagh (throw-in 2pm).
Last summer proved a major disappointment for the hurlers, ending as it did with relegation from the third tier Christy Ring Cup back down to Rackard Cup level. But this level has been a happy one for us in the past, with the county claiming the Rackard Cup title back in 2016.
This spring Derek Walsh’s charges were hurling in the rarified atmosphere of Division 2A of the NHL where, against the likes of Kerry, Antrim and Westmeath, the experience was, for the most part, a chastening one. But, fair play to them, the lads did enough to maintain their place in the Division for next year, where hopefully they’ll be able to build on what they achieved this year.
Those tough NHL matches should also stand the team in good stead heading into the summer. They’ve been bracketed in Group 1 of the Rackard Cup along with Tyrone, Louth and Sligo, all of whom hurled at a lower divisional level this year – Tyrone and Louth in Division 3A, Sligo in Division 3B – so you’d have to think that our lads should be well placed to make progress there over the coming weeks.
Sunday’s opponents Tyrone finished joint third in Division 3A this spring – behind the promoted divisional champions Roscommon and second placed Armagh – where they won three and lost two games.
Without seeing the League results you might conclude – logically – that those two losses came against Roscommon and Armagh. If you did, though, you’d only be half-right: they lost to Roscommon alright but they beat Armagh and so the second loss was to Monaghan, with whom they shared third place in the final table. Their other two wins were over Louth and Lancashire.
Needless to say, our hurlers will be without the services of dual stars Keith Higgins and Fergal Boland on Sunday and they’ll also have to make do without the injury Kenny Feeney. They will, though, have Seán Regan back in harness – he missed last year’s Ring Cup campaign due to injury.
Best of luck to the hurlers on Sunday and here’s to a productive summer campaign for them.