Hurling & Camogie

Antrim will visit Meath in opening game of 2018 hurling Championship

Antrim lost out to Meath in the 2016 Christy Ring Cup final, which had to be replayed after a scorekeeping error the first day. The counties will meet again on the first day of the tier two Championship next summer Picture by Philip Walsh
Antrim lost out to Meath in the 2016 Christy Ring Cup final, which had to be replayed after a scorekeeping error the first day. The counties will meet again on the first day of the tier two Championship next summer Picture by Philip Walsh Antrim lost out to Meath in the 2016 Christy Ring Cup final, which had to be replayed after a scorekeeping error the first day. The counties will meet again on the first day of the tier two Championship next summer Picture by Philip Walsh

ANTRIM will begin their campaign in hurling’s new Tier Two Championship against familiar foes Meath.

The draws for the as-yet-unnamed competition – as well as the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard, and Lory Meagher cups – were made by the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee yesterday, with dates and venues to be confirmed shortly.

Antrim take part in the inaugural Tier Two competition alongside Meath, Carlow, Kerry, Laois and Westmeath, and the Saffrons will renew their rivalry with the Royals in Meath on the first weekend.

The counties famously met in the controversial 2016 Christy Ring Cup final, when a scorekeeping error forced the decider to be replayed.

Meath were presented with the trophy after the referee calculated that they had won by a point, but it soon became apparent that the game had finished in a draw.

The final was replayed three weeks later, with the Royals again coming out on top, while Antrim suffered more Christy Ring final woe this year, losing to Carlow.

And the Barrowsiders will be the Saffrons’s opponents in the second round of games, with Antrim having home advantage. Next up are Laois (h), Westmeath (a) before finishing up at home to Kerry.

The introduction of the new Tier Two competition is part of a wider restructuring of the whole hurling Championship, with the Liam MacCarthy Cup now be confined to 10 teams – five in Munster and five in Leinster.

And while the top two teams in each group will progress to the provincial final, the third-placed team in each province will play one of the top two teams from the Tier Two competition in a preliminary quarter-final.

The two winners then forward to the last eight of the Liam MacCarthy.

If the team that wins the Tier Two competition is from Leinster, they will be promoted straight to the provincial Championship the following season with the bottom team dropping down.

However, if Kerry top the round-robin, they will have to play-off against the bottom team in Munster to earn promotion.

In the Christy Ring Cup, meanwhile, the three Ulster counties – Down, Derry and Armagh – have been drawn together in group two, alongside London. Wicklow, Mayo, Kildare and Roscommon make up group one.

And the first of the Ulster derbies takes place in the first round of fixtures as Down host Armagh, while Derry – last year’s Nicky Rackard Cup winners - have home advantage against London.

The Oak Leafs travel to Armagh for the following round, with Down travelling to face the Exiles. In the final round of group games, Derry and Down go toe-to-toe while Armagh host the Exiles.

In the Rackard Cup, Monaghan are in group one alongside Louth, Longford and Warwickshire, while Donegal and Tyrone are in group two with Liatroim.

The Ulster rivals meet in the first gameweek, with the Red Hands having home advantage.

And there is another provincial derby in the opening weekend of the Lory Meagher Cup as Fermanagh host Cavan. Sligo and Lancashire make up the other teams in the competition.

2018 Hurling Championship fixtures

Tier Two

Round one: Meath v Antrim; Carlow v Kerry; Laois v Westmeath

Round two: Kerry v Laois; Antrim v Carlow; Westmeath v Meath

Round three: Kerry v Westmeath; Antrim v Laois; Carlow v Meath

Round four: Meath v Kerry; Laois v Carlow; Westmeath v Antrim

Round five: Meath v Laois; Carlow v Westmeath; Antrim v Kerry

Christy Ring Cup

Round one: Wicklow v Mayo; Kildare v Roscommon; Derry v London; Down v Armagh

Round two: Roscommon v Wicklow; Mayo v Kildare; Armagh v Derry; London v Down

Round three: Wicklow v Kildare; Roscommon v Mayo; Derry v Down; Armagh v London

Nicky Rackard Cup

Round one: Louth v Warwickshire; Monaghan v Longford; Tyrone v Donegal

Round two: Longford v Louth; Warwickshire v Monaghan; Donegal v Liatroim

Round three: Louth v Monaghan; Longford v Warwickshire; Liatroim v Tyrone

Lory Meagher Cup

Round one: Fermanagh v Cavan; Lancashire v Sligo

Round two: Sligo v Fermanagh; Cavan v Lancashire

Round three: Fermanagh v Lancashire; Sligo v Cavan

Dates, times and venues for all fixtures to be confirmed