Two of Ulster’s most potent finishers will carry a large burden of responsibility when they line out with their respective counties in tomorrow’s Christy Ring Cup competition.
While Derry sharpshooter Paddy Henry seeks to replicate the form that saw him reap a 12-point haul in the win over Kildare last weekend when he faces Wicklow in Arklow, Down’s Paul Braniff can enhance his scoring aggregate against Meath at Navan.
For the two northern sides these are not just important games in the context of this particular competition, they will prove vital Ulster Championship preparation.
Henry has been on fire in the Derry attack lately, but may find scores rather more difficult to come by against a resilient Wicklow defence.
Ruairi Convery and Kevin Hinphey are other key men in a Derry side that showed commendable grit in chiselling out a one-point win over Kildare last weekend.
Manager Ger Rogan, the former Antrim ace, acknowledges though that Wicklow at home are invariably a tricky proposition.
“They play with great ferocity and are capable of mounting up scores,” says Rogan.
Down boss Gerard Monan, meanwhile, will look to the consistently accurate Braniff and Daniel Toner to provide comfort for his side against Meath in Newry.
Down were pushed to the pin of their collar by a forceful Mayo side last weekend before winning by two points and Monan will be hoping that his defence is rather tighter this time.
“There is not much between the sides in this competition and that’s why we must take our chances. We have a good mix of youth and experience and this game will bring us on further,” says Monan.
In the Nicky Rackard Cup, Armagh will host Sligo at Crossmaglen where home manager Michael Johnston will be hoping for greater discipline than that displayed against Louth last week-end when Ryan Gaffney and Paul McCormack were red-carded.
Victory would put Armagh in with a real chance of winning the trophy. Declan Coulter was not in action last week, but could get game time tomorrow.
Also in the Nickey Rackard Cup Donegal look capable of building on their fine performance against Roscommon last weekend when they travel to face Monaghan.