Monday 25 March 2019

Quaid and Herity expected to leave mark on hurling's lower tiers

'Joe Quaid (p) switches from Kildare to take the reins with the Midlanders and already has Kehoe Cup success under his belt after a penalty shoot-out defeat of Antrim.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
'Joe Quaid (p) switches from Kildare to take the reins with the Midlanders and already has Kehoe Cup success under his belt after a penalty shoot-out defeat of Antrim.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

The lower rungs of the hurling ladder are not heralded like their Division 1A/1B counterparts but they lack nothing when it comes to matching their drama and competitiveness.

Westmeath went through the 2A group stages undefeated last year but came up short against Carlow - much like their Joe McDonagh Cup final - with Michael Ryan subsequently parting ways.

Joe Quaid switches from Kildare to take the reins with the Midlanders and already has Kehoe Cup success under his belt after a penalty shoot-out defeat of Antrim.

Ace attacker Niall O'Brien is not currently involved but Westmeath have plenty of talent at their disposal with towering full-back Tommy Doyle and lively forward Niall Mitchell worthy of a place in any inter-county side.

Antrim will be eager to bounce straight back to Division 1B with Neal Peden taking over from Terence McNaughton and Dominic McKinley and he brings former Dublin boss Anthony Daly with him as an advisor.

They could be up against it in the early rounds, however, without talisman Neil McManus and the Cushendall contingent absent as they prepare for their All-Ireland club semi-final against Galway champions St Thomas' on February 9.

Kerry boss Fintan O'Connor - assisted by former Tipperary 'keeper Brendan Cummins - also faces challenges with Shane Conway possibly absent for a number of league ties.

The Lixnaw attacker is an outstanding talent but as he continues to excel for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup, O'Connor expects to be without him for a handful of games given his hectic third-level schedule.

Meath consolidated their position in Division 2A last year and Nick Fitzgerald's Royal outfit will be expected to challenge for a top three spot. Aided on the sideline by former Kilkenny stars Martin Comerford and Michael Kavanagh - and with Jack Regan continuing to develop as a potent forward - Fitzgerald will expect further progress this spring.

Mayo may be without the services of dual star Keith Higgins - likely to concentrate his attention on football - and could struggle after earning promotion last season, while London also face a tall task.

Their four Division 2A defeats last year averaged 13.75 points but new boss Shane Kelly is boosted by Daniel Glynn's arrival from Roscommon.

Much of the 2B talk is the arrival of former Kilkenny star David Herity as Kildare manager and they look a cut above in the league's fourth tier with Brian Byrne, James Burke and Paddy McKenna bolstering last year's Christy Ring Cup winners.

Eamonn Scallan's Wicklow face an uphill task without the St Patrick's contingent - including influential attacker Andy O'Brien who was top scorer in 2B last year, averaging over ten points per game - but he is boosted by Eamonn Kearns' return.

Paul Sheehan and Danny Toner will lead the line for Down, who topped the group last year only to lose out in the decider, and the Mourne men will be keen to make amends, as will a full-strength Derry with the Slaughtneil crew on board.

The Oak Leafers survived a relegation play-off last year and have a Dublin feeling to them this year with John McEvoy in charge, and he is joined by fellow Dub Johnny McGuirk.

Donegal are a dangerous prospect with Danny Cullen, Davin Flynn and Declan Coulter making last year's Nicky Rackard Cup winners dark horses for promotion but Warwickshire may struggle with Chris Brough only recently named as manager.

Little separated Louth (6), Tyrone (6), Roscommon (5) and Monaghan (4) in 3A last year but they may play second fiddle to Armagh - demoted from 2B last year - while Ronan Crowley is expected to lead the line for newly-promoted Lancashire.

Similarly, Longford were relegated to 3B last year but they may come undone by last year's finalists Leitrim - led by Zak Moradi - who can topple Cavan, Sligo and Fermanagh.

Irish Independent

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