Holders Down begin defence of Conor McGurk Cup against hosts QUB
Conor McGurk Cup Section A: QUB v Down (tonight, The Dub, 7.30pm)
HOLDERS Down begin the defence of their Bank of Ireland Conor McGurk Cup against Queen's University at the Dub tonight.
Marty Mallon managed Down won the competition last year, beating Ulster University 1-25 to 0-6 in the final, and emerging star Oisin McManus came on as a late substitute in that win.
“My dad was friendly with Conor McGurk's brother Enda and it's a privilege for me to be working with the family as much as I can,” said McManus.
“By all accounts Conor was a brilliant hurler as a goalkeeper and was many times an Allstar. That's something I strive for, to try and get to that level myself.”
The competition has been boosted by the return of Antrim (winners in 2016 but absent last year) and by Tyrone's involvement for the first time. The Red Hands have replaced Derry, who have chosen not to take part, and their presence means there are six counties involved in the pre-season competition which is hosted by Queen's and also includes Donegal and Ulster University.
Queen's ran Donegal close in the opening round of fixtures on December 17 and their attack tonight is likely to be spearheaded once again by Cushendall clubman Fergus McCambridge who produced an eye-catching performance in September's Antrim senior championship final against Dunloy.
“It's great preparation,” explained McCambridge at the launch of the annual competition.
“We have championship just around the corner; starting in February. It's obviously good, competitive matches and a good, high standard and we're ready to go.”
Tyrone, UUJ, Antrim and Down, Donegal and hosts QUB will compete in two sections before the top teams in each group meet in the final at the Dub on January 13.
December 17, 2017
Section A: Donegal 1-22 QUB 2-17
Section B: Tyrone 1-20 UU 1-15
Section A: Down v QUB (7.30pm); Section B: Antrim v UU at Ulster University (7.30pm)
Section A: Down v Donegal (1.30pm), Section B: Antrim v Tyrone (12pm)
January 13: Final (7pm)