Down, beaten in last year’s Christy Ring final by Westmeath, are back on the glory trail again, and according to county PRO Diarmuid Cahill, are very keen to make amends for their 2005 disappointment.
He explained: “We have only three senior hurling clubs in the county which makes it far easier for us to play as many inter-county games as we can get. In order to get competitive hurling games, our three senior clubs take part in the Antrim County League so any opportunity to play more hurling matches is always welcome by Down.
“If you look at the Ulster championship this year, we fell apart badly against Antrim. If we didn’t have the Christy Ring Cup to fall back on our hurling season would be over. One of the benefits for us was it gave us the chance to play Antrim a second time and we took great pleasure in defeating them by 16 points. That was a turn around of 17 points. Because the Cup is played on a round robin basis, it gives us at least four more games and if we progress to the final there is every possibility Antrim will provide the opposition again. That would be something worth seeing.”
Kerry County Board secretary Eamon O’Sullivan argued in favour of the competition also. “It’s the place Kerry hurling wants to be, and if we could sort out our internal problems, we could give it a right rattle. We have a slight problem with the number of games we have to play in the round robin series, and we will be proposing a change to make it like the qualifiers in football. If you lose two games you are out.”
Mayo county board hurling PRO Sean Costello was equally supportive of the competition. “We are competing at a level we didn’t think was possible, and while we have lost our two games to date, the players are enjoying the experience. It also means that our players are hurling during the summer months. The quality of the opposition is a lot better and we can only learn from that.”
However, Louth county secretary Pat Toner has an open mind about the value of his county taking part in the Nicky Rackard Cup. “It’s great for the players to be competing at that level, but it’s causing major problems for the county board trying to run the domestic championships.”
“In his annual report to the Leinster convention earlier this year, secretary Michael Delaney caused a furore among Louth and Longford people when he said it was a futile exercise spending money in promoting hurling in both counties. But I would agree with him. I was in Croke Park on Sunday at the hurling final and if ourselves and Longford were there for the next 100 years we would never come up to Kilkenny’s standard or Wexford’s for that matter and that was bad.
“Hurling is in a very poor state at the moment with only two or three counties having any realistic chance of winning the All-Ireland title. It’s difficult to see what can be done to increase that number.”