Antrim, Down face prospect of doubling up in Cup semi-finals
The hurlers of Antrim and Down today find themselves in the spotlight following a novel weekend decision that could prove the precursor to ongoing amendments to the fixtures calendar.
The counties are due to meet in the semi-finals of the Conor McGurk Cup on Sunday but they are also still involved in the Kehoe Cup which is staged annually under the auspices of the Leinster Council.
With Antrim and Derry also due to meet in the latter competition, agreement has been reached that, assuming both teams win their McGurk Cup semi-final ties, then they will meet in a tie that will 'double-up' as a semi-final spanning both competitions.
Down will meet Ulster University in the first of Sunday's semi-finals at The Dub (12.00) with Queen's and Antrim crossing swords, also at The Dub, at 1.45.
Down manager Ronan Sheehan, in hailing the decision, believes it has been taken in the interests of all parties.
"Look, we have not even turned the corner into the New Year yet and already we are facing the possibility of a fresh fixtures glut so anything that is designed to ease this situation is be welcomed," says Sheehan.
"I am aware that there will be teams training over the actual Christmas period itself but I think that this is a nonsense.
"As far as we in Down are concerned we are taking a break until next Sunday's game and we will see how things go from there."
With Antrim having also made a lively start to the season, if their fixture against Down becomes a reality as a dual purpose affair, then new manger Draren Gleeson will embrace this.
"We have been assessing players in both the Kehoe Cup and the Conor McGurk Cup to date and with the league edging ever closer we are getting a better idea of the relative strength of our squad," says former Tipperary All-Ireland winner Gleeson.
Both Ulster sides are anxious to get their hands on silverware before the heat comes on and Down boss Sheehan believes that competition will be intense even outside the top bracket.
"There are a lot of teams who will be eyeing promotion, and ourselves and Antrim will certainly be no exception to this," maintains Sheehan.
Antrim have been scoring freely of late, having racked up an impressive 11-73 in their three opening games but should they meet Down they may find it more difficult to score at will.