FINGAL travel to Ruislip to take on London in this Saturday’s Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final in Ruislip with a 2pm throw in.
Beaten in successive finals – they lost by a single point in last year’s decider to Armagh – London will be hoping to make it third time lucky this time round.
The Exiles have got the better of Fingal twice before, but Ben Dorney’s men go into this game with some confidence after defeating Sligo by 3-19 to 0-11 a fortnight ago.
Niall Ring was one of many to impress on the day and Dorney believes the Naomh Barróg club man has a bright future ahead of him.
‘He’s on the Dublin U-21 panel and not there to make the tea or carry the biscuits’. ‘He is there because he is worth his place and is a good hurler. I’ve known Niall Ring since he was 15 when he came out to the first Dublin trials at minor level and he was always a very committed and positive young lad in terms of his hurling, and as he has matured his hurling has got better.
‘He is a very tight marker and aggressive in the tackle and he is a good striker of the ball. So he is a very good hurler and is well capable of playing at a level higher than the Nicky Rackard.’
Fingal have five gardai on the team, and with all leave cancelled for both the visit of the Queen and Barack Obama, it will be a big ask for Fingal.
Dorney knows London well, having faced them three times as Kildare manager, and is full of admiration for the exiles.
‘They have a very transient situation there because they don’t always have the same players from one year to the other. ‘But they do a good job and they work very hard at keeping the game going, which isn’t always easy for them in terms of having continuity in their team.
‘I played them three times when I was at Kildare and they were tough competitors, and on the occasions we came out on top we were very lucky to beat them, and in my honest opinion they will be going into Saturday’s game as warm favourites.’
A key sector for Fingal will be the inside line and Dorney has been very happy with the contribution of Davy Byrne since he was moved there for the championship opener with Monaghan at the start of the month.
And while he had a reasonably quiet day on the scoring sheet against Sligo in round two, Dorney was very happy with his overall play.
‘He wasn’t scoring an awful lot the last day, but he was a fantastic link man and brought a lot of other players into the play.
‘And you need that as well. Davy has a lot of experience and the young lads like Richardson (Andrew) and JM Sheridan and Aodhán McEnerney, who are all very good hurlers, would thrive on that.
‘And in a sense on the field they would need a bit of direction. And the fact the Davy is bringing them into the play would be good for their confidence”
It looks like Waterford native Martin Ormonde might be able to start in the forward line after missing the last two matches.
The other weekend semi-final sees Monaghan going for their first ever Rackard final against Louth in Clones, again with a 2.30 throw
After being relegated from Division 3B of the National Hurling League, Monaghan went into their first-round game against Fingal as clear underdogs, but they produced their best performance of the year so far to deservedly upset the odds. However, Frank Brady’s side will have to find another gear if they are to get past Louth, who have already played three times in the competition. Louth started off with a comprehensive win over Sligo and although they fell to a similarly one-sided defeat against London, they bounced back to edge past Roscommon by the narrowest of margins.
Louth finished third in Division 3B with eight points from their six games. The Wee county started off with three straight wins at the expense of Sligo, Monaghan and Fingal, but they just missed out on a place in the final after losing to Mayo and Roscommon, either side of a big win over Donegal. When the sides met in the league earlier this year, Louth were comfortable winners and they have also beaten Monaghan twice in the Nicky Rackard Cup – including in the 2008 semi-final after extra-time – so the Farney men have unfinished business with their Leinster rivals.
Monaghan will once again be depending on the accuracy, particularly from frees, of Mickey McHugh, who scored 1-13 against Fingal, while Stephen Lambe, Ronan Meegan and Éanna Mac Suibhne are other key forwards. Trevor Hilliard, formerly a star player with Louth, is now a driving force for Monaghan at midfield, with Paul Murphy, Pauric Dowdall and Alan Lambe are the main men in defence. Louth can call on several players with great experience and quality – among them Diarmuid Murphy, Brian Corcoran, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, David Dunne, Gerard Smyth and Shane Callan.
An intriguing tie goes ahead on Saturday in Birmingham with Warwickshire welcoming Tyrone in the Lori Meagher Cup.
Tyrone travel into the unknown slightly as the growing levels of emigration could see interesting choices in the brummies’ side. Tyrone manager Tom McGill will look to Captain Sean Paul McGinley to get the Ulster side a win.