By Damian Dolan
Lancashire hurling manager Stan Murray-Hession is more concerned with his side’s below-par display against Fermanagh, than talk of an appeal by Leitrim to the sides’ clash in Manchester.
Leitrim were reported last week by the Leitrim Observer to be challenging their 0-20 to 1-15 Lory Meagher Cup defeat to Lancashire at Old Bedians, on the grounds that there were no independent umpires or linesmen.
Due to “exceptional circumstances” they were instead provided by both camps, leaving Croke Park’s appointed referee as the only neutral official on day.
However, Leitrim county board chairman Terence Boyle confirmed to the Irish World that despite the comments of Leitrim manager Martin Cunniffe no official appeal was lodged.
The result in Manchester therefore stands, leaving Murray-Hession’s side knowing that victory over Cavan in Breffni Park on Saturday (Ballyconnell, 1pm) should be enough to get them to Croker on 22 June.
The permutations are numerous, though, including the possibility of Lancashire losing to Cavan and still reaching the final, or beating the Breffini men and missing out on a Croker return. Points difference could well come into play.
The “bigger concern” for Murray-Hession is getting a performance out of his players after a below-par display against Fermanagh.
The Exiles let slip a two-point half-time lead in Enniskillen, to go down by 2-13 to 0-15 to a Fermanagh side now in pole position.
“We’ll need to perform significantly better – by our standards we were very, very poor,” Murray-Hession told the Irish World.
“We just never turned up and we never got going – we made some silly mistakes. And in fairness to Fermanagh the better team won on the day.”
It was also a defeat that came at a price – captain Greg Jacobs carried off with an injury late on. Lancashire will need the experienced former Wexford senior hurler on Saturday.
The sides’ 2018 head-to-head favours Lancashire. Murray-Hession’s side had nine points to spare over Cavan in the league, and were 12-point winners when the sides’ met in the championship.
Lancashire also came out on top (by three points) when the sides met in the Lory Meagher in 2017.
But this year’s championship campaign suggests it might not be so comfortable for Lancashire this time around.
While the Erne men had four points to spare over Lancashire, their margin of victory over
Cavan in Round 1 was five points.
Cavan then lost to Leitrim in Carrick by 2-16 to 1-16, having played the last 11 minutes with just 14-men. Diarmuid Carney scoring 10f for the Breffini men. Cavan’s answer to Ronan Crowley perhaps.
In their ranks they have the Sheanon brothers, Colum and John, who won All-Ireland SHC club medals with Dublin’s Cuala in 2018 and 2017. John scored 1-3 in Cavan’s defeat to Fermanagh.
“Cavan are not going to be a pushover – they’ve improved immensely,” said Murray-Hession.
But Lancashire have plenty of ‘big match’ know-how of their own. Having been beaten by Sligo last year in Round 1, they despatched Cavan before going to Brewster Park needing a win to reach the final. They duly beat Fermanagh by 12 points.
Lancashire know how to get the job done – they know-how to get to finals and to Croke Park. And any side with Ronan Crowley in its ranks will always be in with a chance.