Allianz NHL Division 3B Preview - Round One
While the Allianz Hurling Leagues further south of Division 2A may not occupy many column inches or attract much airtime in the national media, for those competing the competition is an essential preparation point for a tilt at the Meagher, Rackard or Ring cups and for progression in general. Ground gained by way of good championship performances is rarely sustained while hurling at a lower level in the league. Games are regularly competitive, with last year’s 3B campaign yielding an average winning margin of just 7.5 points per game, decreasing to six points per game when you discount last year’s champions Sligo. The absence this year of the English counties Lancashire and Warwickshire due to the Covid 19 Pandemic means that only four counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, and Louth will be in the mix to ascend from hurling’s basement division in 2021.
Beaten finalists in 2020 and 2018, Leitrim will be looking to go one better and finally make the jump to Division 3A. Having had some near misses in the competition of late, the focus will be on promotion and the enter the campaign as the only team of the four currently hurling in the Rackard Cup, retaining their status in a losing effort against Mayo last year. This exposure will no doubt stand to them against their fellow opposition.
Cavan will look to make more inroads this year, having only won one game in the compeititon last year. Heavy defeat to eventual champions Sligo aside, Cavan weren’t too far away in any of their games, and with local derbies against Fermanagh and Leitrim, will be quietly confident of making a push for a final place.
Fermanagh too, like Cavan picked up just the one win last year against Leitrim, getting the better of the eventual finalists on the opening day, but couldn’t build on that opening triumph. With the worst concession rate in the league, they will need to tighten up defensively to give themselves a chance in 2021
Louth are the new arrivals to 3B in 2021, arriving with more of a whimper than a thud after enduing a torrid time in Division 3A last year, failing to muster a victory. They did however, only suffer losses of one and two points respectively to eventual finalists Armagh and Donegal and this will have them confident of being able to make an immediate return to the upper echelon of Division 3 this year.
Game: Leitrim vs Louth
When: Sunday 16th May
Venue: Avant Money Páirc Séan Mac Diarmada, Carrick on Shannon
Throw in: 2pm
Referee: Brian Keon
Definitely the clash of the round as last years relegated team from 3A will face off against the beaten 3B finalists. Both sides will be targeting a move to division 3A as essential for their future plans, with Leitrim looking to hold their on and push on in the Rackard Cup later in the year while Louth will have to face 3A teams like Longford and Monaghan in their quest for Meagher honours. The winners in this clash will be in pole position to contest the final. Both sides will be somewhat of an unknown quantity to each other, so it could very well come down to fitness and the side with the better touch on the day as opposed to a tactical battle. Leitrim get the nod with the benefit of home advantage.
Game: Cavan vs Fermanagh
When: Sunday 16th May
Venue: Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan
Throw in: 2pm
Referee: Caymon Flynn
Neighbours Cavan face off against Fermanagh at home in the other clash in round one. Fermanagh will be viewing all games this year as winnable and won’t give anything easy to their Ulster neighbours. That said, the Breffni men had five points to spare in the same fixture last year. They’ll be hoping to make home advantage tell once again against the Ernesiders, who have only won once on the opening day of the league in the last five years.