Hurling and camogie

The Hurling Championships: Ulster County Analysis

Allianz hurling League 2 Down v Armagh McKenna Park Ballycran18/02/2018Down Dannt Toner Armagh David CarvillPic Philip Walsh
By Padraig Kelly

Joe McDonagh Cup

Antrim

Managers

Terence McNaughton, Dominic McKinley, Gary O'Kane, Neal Peden

Captain

Conor McKinley

Main man

Neil McManus – an obvious choice but his scoring stats were ridiculous in the league. The Cushendall ace grabbed 0-62 in six games including 0-13 from play.

Last year's highlight

Carlow may have beaten them in the Christy Ring Cup final, but Antrim had managed to out-maneuver them in the Division 2A final earlier in the season, Neil McManus and Eoghan Campbell grabbing the goals that secured promotion.

Disappointed if they don't

With three home games left in their final four fixtures, Antrim have to target a top-two spot. That would secure not only a shot at the new Joe McDonagh Cup but also a spot in the Liam MacCarthy competition proper (All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final), so they should have plenty of motivation.

Next fixture

Joe McDonagh Cup round two v Carlow (Saturday, May 12, Corrigan Park).

Christy Ring Cup

Armagh

Manager

Padraig O'Connor

Captain

Simon Doherty

Main man

David Carvill – Armagh may have suffered relegation from Division 2B, but the Middletown man played some sublime hurling and contributed 1-31 in five games.

Last year's highlight

A run to the Nicky Rackard final was expected so the highlight was probably the Ulster Championship semi-final win over Down. They have performed well against their neighbours in recent times and a strong second half brought them back to the final.

Disappointed if they don't

Manager Paddy Kelly stepped down recently and Padraig O'Connor came in as interim boss so there's an uncertainty about how they will go. Still, if they react in the right manner they should be competitive in a Christy Ring Cup group also containing Derry, Down and London. Two home games from three gives them a chance of finishing in the top two and reaching the semi-final.

Next fixture

Christy Ring Cup group two round one v Down (Saturday, May 12, Ballycran).

Derry

Manager

Collie McGurk

Captain

Chrissy McKaigue

Main man

Chrissy McKaigue – The Slaughtneil and Derry dual star always has a packed schedule, but he still brings elite performances to every team that he represents.

Last year's highlight

After a dreadful 2017 when they failed to win a competitive fixture, Derry roared back to win the Nicky Rackard Cup. They hit 9-40 in their semi-final and final wins over Monaghan and Armagh.

Disappointed if they don't

Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers have committed to playing for the hurlers, if football permits, so they should be strong. It's still a young team though and getting out of the group is the priority. If they have their main men it's an achievable target.

Next fixture

Christy Ring Cup group two round one v London (Saturday, May 12, Ballinascreen).

Down

Manager

Marty Mallon

Captain

Declan McManus

Main man

Paul Sheehan – with so many players retiring or deciding not to commit after last season, Sheehan has really stepped up to the plate and hit 1-39 in the league.

Last year's highlight

It certainly wasn't a vintage year by any stretch, so securing a few Christy Ring wins, against Roscommon and London respectively, was probably the highlight before Antrim dismissed them in the semi-final.

Disappointed if they don't

This is a new, young Down team so expectations aren't massively high. Still, with quality players like Danny Toner, Caolan Baillie and John McManus still involved, they will be confident of getting to a semi-final at least.

Next fixture

Christy Ring Cup group two round one v Armagh (Saturday, May 12, Ballycran).

Nicky Rackard Cup

Donegal

Manager

Mickey McCann

Captain

Danny Cullen

Main man

Declan Coulter – the former Armagh man has a real keen eye for goal and raised three green flags during the league.

Last year's highlight

Their stunning Division 3A final win over Tyrone when David Flynn notched 2-8 in the 4-25 to 1-12 win.

Disappointed if they don't

Donegal are one of the success stories of the year having already defeated Armagh, Derry and Down. Make no mistake about it, anything other than winning this competition will be seen as a disappointment.

Next fixture

Nicky Rackard Cup group two round one v Tyrone (Saturday, May 12, Healy Park).

Monaghan

Manager

Trevor Hilliard

Captain

Jamie Guinan

Main man

Mark Treanor – provides a real battling partnership with his brother Peter around the centre of the park.

Last year's highlight

Their Nicky Rackard cup quarter-final win over Donegal was their most impressive performance of the season. A heavy loss to Derry followed but it was good progress.

Disappointed if they don't

Monaghan have defeated Longford this year, drawn with Louth and lost to Warwickshire by just a point. If they can get Fergal Rafter and Mark Treanor going, they will have ambitions of topping the group.

Next fixture

Nicky Rackard Cup group one round one v Longford (Saturday, May 12, Grattan Park).

Tyrone

Manager

Mattie Lennon

Captain

Brendan Begley

Main man

Damian Casey – The Dungannon man's 0-8 haul in the League opener against Warwickshire was a surprise, he doesn't usually stay in single digits. He made up for it by the end of the campaign though, averaging 13.2 points per game.

Last year's highlight

Beating Monaghan in Cloghan to qualify for the Division 3A final. Unfortunately Donegal would prove much too strong in the final.

Disappointed if they don't

It's probably the tougher of the two groups, but if they can beat Donegal at home in their first fixture then they will have top spot, and a final, in their eye-line.

Next fixture

Nicky Rackard Cup group two round one v Donegal (Saturday, May 12, Healy Park).

Lory Meagher Cup

Cavan

Manager

Michael Carr

Captain

Anthony Sheridan

Main man

Kevin Connelly – the Galway native is a huge player for the Breffni county and his driving runs from the middle of the pitch are crucial for their attacking aspirations.

Last year's highlight

Undoubtedly playing their first competitive game in six years as they competed in the Lory Meagher Cup. They even managed to pick up a win against Fermanagh.

Disappointed if they don't

Register at least one win. They have now beaten Fermanagh twice since returning from a six-year hiatus, and they'll be confident of making it a treble.

Next fixture

Lory Meagher Cup round one v Fermanagh (Saturday, May 19, Brewster Park).

Fermanagh

Manager

Sean Duffy

Captain

Andrew Breslin

Main man

John Duffy – the hard-working Fermanagh midfielder played his first full game in 12 months against Lancashire in round one of the League and never looked back.

Last year's highlight

Not much to chose from unfortunately with just two wins in 11 games. Those victories over Leitrim (Lory Meagher Cup) and Sligo (Division 3B) were rare bright spots.

Disappointed if they don't

Fermanagh are much weaker this year without the likes of Sean Corrigan and Declan McGarry, so avoiding the wooden spoon may be the most achievable goal.

Next fixture

Lory Meagher Cup round one v Cavan (Saturday, May 19, Brewster Park).

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