The Joe McDonagh Cup is an inter-county hurling competition in Ireland. It was founded in 2018 and is organized by the Gaelic Athletic Association. The Joe McDonagh Cup is considered as the second-highest inter-county hurling tournament in Ireland and is an integral part of the greater hurling picture in the country.
The winner and runner-up of the Joe McDonagh Cup are awarded automatic entry to the GAA’s All-Ireland Hurling Competition. The top two finishers are bracketed at the preliminary quarterfinals stage while the champion is awarded promotion to the following year’s provincial championships. Similarly, the last-placed team in the competition is relegated to the Christy Ring Cup the following year.
There are five teams in the 2019 Joe McDonagh Cup. The teams play each other in a single round-robin system. Two points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. The games are played in the home ground of one of the two teams. Each team is guaranteed two home games while some have three. The teams are ranked according to points earned and then by head-to-head match-up. The top two teams at the end of the round-robin stage contest the Joe McDonagh Cup in the final which will be played in Croke Park as the appetizer for the Leinster final on the first Sunday in July.
Last year, Carlow won the 2018 Joe McDonagh Cup after defeating Westmeath 2-26 to 1-24 in the final. This year, five teams will compete for two slots to the preliminary quarterfinals of the 2019 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Laois is the top hurling betting favorite according to betmaker William Hill.
Here are the odds to win the 2019 Joe McDonagh Cup:
Laois lost talisman Ross King after his club Rathdowney-Errill, lost its county final to Camross which left King with severe facial injuries. But after sitting out the entire League campaign, the former Laois captain is back to give new manager Eddie Brennan a huge shot in the arm. Laois had underperformed in both the League and championship but since Brennan’s arrival, they performed respectable enough with a win over Offaly, a draw with Carlow and a close defeat to Dublin. Without King, they managed to avoid relegation to Division 1B but were beaten by eventual champions Limerick in the league-quarterfinals. Still, the return of King puts them on top of the order in the 2019 Joe McDonagh.
Antrim has always been competitive in second-tier competition but last year, they had to rely on a relegation playoff to survive in the tournament. This year, the re-introduction of Neil McManus and the other Cushendall players are going to give them a lift. With the Cushendall’s performance in the club’s recent championship, Antrim can definitely compete at this level but I’m not sure if they can get enough wins to carry them to the title.
There’s plenty to be positive about Westmeath’s hurling, from the brilliant display of Killian Doyle up front to the huge performances of Tommy Doyle in the heart of the defense. Last season’s performance showed a lot of promise until they collapsed in the final against Carlow. Westmeath also enters the 2019 Joe McDonagh Cup with plenty of confidence after getting promoted to the top tier of the National Hurling league after 33 years.
Offaly went from a county that won All-Irelands ( four of them from 1981-1988) to a side that suffers 15-20 point defeats in the championship is one of the saddest stories in hurling. Now they have been demoted from the All-Ireland to the Joe McDonagh Cup. During this year’s National League, Offaly lost to Waterford, Dublin and Galway by 27, 13 and 12 points, respectively. But they beat Carlow during the group stage before being beaten by the Scallion Eaters in a relegation playoff.
Kerry has one of the best forwards in the tournament in UCC’s Shane Conway. They also have All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Brendan Cummins. However, the team faces a pair of tough fixtures away from home in their first two games- one against Antrim and the other against Westmeath. If they win at least one of those, they are in business but if they lose both, then it may be over for them.
I was looking at Westmeath winning this after a promising 2018 campaign. But after last month’s announcement that their former captain had returned, I think the tide has turned to Laois. After underperforming, the side seems to have gotten back on track with Eddie Brennan at the helm. With Ross King back, I think the stars are aligned for Laois to win the 2019 Joe McDonagh Cup. Prediction: Laois