Drumree’s David Reilly and Dunderry’s Niall O’Leary will be key men for their respective sides if they are to claim the Mick Leonard Cup this year. Photo: GERRY SHANAHAN-WWW.QUIRKE.IE

O’Mahonys get a hesitant vote

The Mick Leonard Cup is played in the same format as the SHC, but unfortunately for the winners of the IHC recent years suggest they are likely to become a yo-yo team.

Wolfe Tones are the latest team to win the IHC and make the instant drop back down from senior the following year.

Clann na nGael won the Mick Leonard Cup in 2019 and are still up at senior, but they are struggling, while Navan O'Mahonys are another side that have traded places between the top tier and intermediate hurling on a couple of occasions.

Only Ratoath, and Na Fianna to a lesser extent, have made the leap and been effective competitors when they have risen up through the ranks, so who is capable of joining that company?

Group A is, as expected, hugely competitive with all six teams capable of advancing and indeed hoping to claim a top two spot.

Group B has three strong second teams from senior clubs, Trim, Ratoath and Kilmessan, bidding for one of the top two places, while Kilskyre/Moylagh and Gaeil Colmcille look like genuine contenders too, with Donaghmore/Ashbourne likely to struggle.

There has been great work done in north Meath in recent years to promote hurling at underage level and Loughcrew Gaels have been tremendously successful. It would be no huge surprise if both Kilskyre/Moylagh and Gaeil Colmcille were the two sides to emerge from Group B, although Trim will also be in with a huge shout.

As is likely to be the case in the SHC, the winner of the IHC looks certain to come from Group A.

Their demoralising year in senior and tough A HL Div 2 campaign suggests Wolfe Tones might struggle to recapture their 2020 form, while Drumree's showing in the A HL Div 2 final against Killyon will leave their management worried.

Kildalkey's second string are an excellent young team and capable of causing a shock or two, while Dunderry, Navan O'Mahonys and Rathmolyon are all more than capable of advancing.

Picking a winner is like pulling a name from a hat, it's too hard to call.

To avoid splinters in my backside from sitting on the fence Navan O'Mahonys look the better equipped side to claim overall honours, but expect a bumpy ride.