Fergus McMahon is ‘quietly confident’ that his team could lift the Christy Ring Cup this year, as they prepare to face Down in their opening match of the competition this Saturday
Down were the team to knock London out of the secondhighest senior championship last year, and were top of the 2B table in the league last month. A loss to Armagh however saw them stay in the league below London but McMahon does not think league standings have any bearing when it comes to championship matches.
“I wouldn’t read too much into the league. “They had a strong Christy Ring campaign last year when they got to the semi-finals and they’ll be looking to do the same again,” he said.
“They lost their league final to Armagh, but after reading the match reports and speaking to people at the game, it seemed that it was weather that dictated how the game went.
“I think we’re in a better position travelling to Down this year. “Last time we had players struggling with fitness and a few out with injury so we have a much stronger panel this time around.”
Last year it seemed as though the gruelling Christy Ring schedule of games were one of the main contributing factors reported for being London’s downfall last year; playing four games in four weeks. “It’s just the way it is, but it seems they cram the Christy Ring games into a short space of time in the GAA calendar which kind of belittles the competition.
“There are some lovely hurlers throughout all the counties in the competition, but because it is over such a short space of time if a player picks up an injury in their first game then that is likely to rule him out of the whole competition.
“We’ll definitely be hoping to get a home draw in the next round. But we won’t find out until maybe Sunday or Monday who we are playing, where or when so then we have to organise everything logistically in four or five days.
“This weekend lads need to take a half day from work Friday, no work Saturday and then we’re not back until Sunday afternoon and that takes a toll on them. “Especially lads facing into a week of work again on the building sites.
“But it’s just the way it is, we were lucky enough to get a home draw against Kildare.”
The team travelled to Gort for a challenge match and training session the weekend before last and McMahon is optimistic that the strength in training will cross over into the competition.
“We’re in a good place, we’ve had a good few weeks since the league was over. The players had a week off after the disappointment of not making the league final, but we got back to business straight away and they look strong in training.” There are no injury worries at present apart from long-time absentee, and team captain, Tadhg Healy who is recovering from a hand injury.
“He is still a few weeks away from coming back, but match fitness is not an issue. He’s been out training with us, just not in contact.” McMahon is hoping that the mix of players’ experience from last year, plus the strength from new players will give them a strong chance of winning this year’s Christy Ring, which would promote them to the All Ireland series next season.
“We learnt a lot from last year. There was probably a turnover of about 12 or 13 players with some coming back into the panel and others unable to commit due to travel and work pressures.
“But obviously with the panel we have this year we are quietly confident. We are going in to try and win it outright, as are the other teams.
“Antrim will be in a strong position after getting back the Cushendall players that were in the All Ireland Club final and after their change in management.
“We’ll just take it from the first game and if results and fitness and the draw goes our way then we have a good a chance as any.”