The Christy Ring Cup began with a bang last week. Wicklow narrowly defeated Mayo by two points, and Derry won comfortably against Down, while Meath triumphed over Armagh and Kerry were narrow four point victor’s over Kildare.
The cup gives middle-ranking hurling teams the chance to develop and compete for silverware, while the winners are promoted and challenge for the Liam McCarthy Cup in 2012.
The cup has a double elimination format, with last week’s winning teams locking horns against each other this week. Derry host Wicklow and face a tough test against the Leinster team. The teams finished in the top two positions of Division 3a in the league, but Wicklow triumphed in both encounters between the teams. Wicklow edged out Derry 2-15 to 1-17 in their penultimate match of the league campaign, while the Garden County beat Derry 2-20 to 3-14 in the final.
Meath will be slight underdogs against Kerry. The Leinster team struggled in the league, only winning two games in Division 3a. Kerry also struggled in Division 2, finishing second last. Kerry have been impressive against Meath in recent years, racking up a huge 3-30 to 3-10 victory in the 2010 league campaign. Meath will, however, be buoyed by their impressive seven point victory over Armagh.
The winners of these two games will progress to the semi finals, while the losers will face the winners of Saturday’s other two matches.
Last week’s losing teams Mayo, Down, Armagh and Kildare are only one loss away from a relegation playoff. Mayo host Kildare, while Armagh travel to neighbours Down. The fear of relegation is still at the forefront of their minds, but the four teams will be desperate to progress to the quarter finals.
Mayo enjoyed a mixed league season, finishing joint top of Division 3b but losing out to Roscommon in the final. Kildare struggled to fourth in Division 3a, only winning two matches. The teams last met in the 2009 Christy Ring Cup, when Mayo ran out six point winners. Both sides were unlucky in narrow defeats last week and will be confident of rebounding at Castlebar’s McHale Park.
Down and Armagh meet in the final match with both sides reeling from big losses last week. Down will be heavy favourites, having won ten and drawn one of the sides’ eleven encounters. The teams met at the quarter final stage of the last two Ulster Championships, with Down winning 5-20 to 0-13 in 2009 and 4-24 to 0-9 in 2010.
Mayo vs Kildare
Down vs Armagh
Derry vs Wicklow
Meath vs Kerry