Christy Ring Cup success is vital for Meath hurling
Regardless of what way you want to look at Meath's forthcoming Christy Ring Cup campaign, the only acceptable outcome to the third tier competition is outright victory and a quick return to the Joe McDonagh Cup.
That adequately sums up the challenge facing manager Nick Fitzgerald as he attempts to plot a path that will ultimately lead to Croke Park on Saturday 22nd June for the decider.
Meath sampled the Christy Ring Cup-winning feeling in a Croke Park replay against Antrim in 2016 (see video clip of presentation) and will be eager to get the silverware back in the Royal County again next month.
JAMES TOHER WITH THE CUP AT CROKER
So, what are the prospects of a repeat of that 2016 victory?
This year Meath consolidated a place in the NHL Div 2A with performances that were god, bad and indifferent.
Finding some consistency is, perhaps, a key to unlocking the potential of the team, but the Royal County should be strong enough to achieve outright success starting with a victory over London at the weekend.
“London won't be arriving in Navan next Sunday just to make up the numbers and it will be the same when we go to Newbridge to face Kildare,” suggested Fitzgerald at the Meath meet and greet evening at Dunganny.
“Kildare will feel aggrieved that they are still in the Christy Ring Cup after winning it last year, but at least this time around the winner will go up to the Joe McDonagh Cup and I would hope that would be Meath.
“Last year proved that we weren't ready for the Joe McDonagh Cup, we prepared as best we could and it's a simple fact, we just weren't good enough for that level.
“We are at a level in the Christy Ring Cup where we can compete and if we can win the competition it will help us in our preparations for the Joe McDonagh Cup in 2020.
“You never know what you are going to get with London and that's difficult for them also, but they will be better prepared for this than when we played them in the league,” he added.
And what about that NHL Div 2A campaign? Was the manager satisfied with the outcome?
“I wasn't overly-happy with the league campaign, it was a disappointing start against Mayo and we really needed to win that game,” he said.
“We were better against Antrim and we got the win we needed against London and consolidated our position in Div 2A, that was important for Meath hurling.
“From a club point of view it's good that the hurling championships don't start until June or early July as it means everyone knows where they stand and it's a more compact competition.
“We had to deal with some of our players in club football championship action in April, but we had a good month of training in March leading up to that. All the players in the panel gave a commitment to hurling training and that worked well although the preparations are a bit fractured I suppose.
“We had a challenge game when we got everyone back and we have most of the players who were injured back in contention for places now, lads like Sean Geraghty, Gavin McGowan, Shane Brennan, Joey Keena and Adam Gannon, it's great to have them all available.
Unfortunately Sean Quigley and Stefan Geraghty will be absent.
“We played Kildare already this year in the Kehoe Cup and that went to a penalty shoot-out, we have also played Derry and Wicklow and they are in the other group, we know what to expect, but we also know that it won't be easy,” he concluded.