Saturday is a big day of county action with three Monaghan teams in championship action.
Monaghan v Fermanagh, Saturday, 7.00, Clones
Monaghan start their 2017 SFC campaign in Saturday evening’s Ulster preliminary-round game against Fermanagh in Clones.
Monaghan go into the championship on the back of a good run in the Allianz National Football League Division One, but they will be determined to bounce back from an underwhelming summer 2016 that saw them knocked out by Longford, a week after their reign in Ulster had been ended in a semi-final replay against Donegal. Fermanagh ended up getting relegated from Division Two after a topsy-turvy campaign, but they were just one point off Monaghan when they made the short trip to Clones for a Dr. McKenna Cup game back in January.
Monaghan are without injured duo Darren Hughes and Barry McGinn, but they have an otherwise fit panel to select from, with Dessie Mone back in contention after missing the league. The team named by Malachy O’Rourke (who starts his fifth championship in charge) shows two changes from the Dublin game, with Neil McAdam and Conor McCarthy in for Darren Hughes and Owen Duffy.
There are five changes from the county’s last championship outing. Dessie Ward is the only SFC debutant named in the starting team, while Conor Forde, James Mealiff, Brian Greenan, Aaron Lynch and Micheál Bannigan are among the substitutes. The hosts will hope for Jack McCarron to maintain his fine form alongside Conor McManus up front, while Kieran Hughes and the Wylie brothers should also be to the fore.
Fermanagh’s team has four changes from the one pipped by Derry in their last league game, with Cian McManus, Conor Murphy, Ryan Lyons and Tomás Corrigan replacing Declan McCusker, Ryan Jones, Eddie Courtney and Daryl Keenan. Corrigan and Seán Quigley should lead the visitors’ attack, with Eoin Donnelly the main man at midfield and Aidan Breen and Barry Mulrone other key players.
Supporters are reminded that tickets are available at a reduced price when purchased before match day from tickets.ie or in Centra or SuperValu stores.
Monaghan: Rory Beggan; Fintan Kelly, Drew Wylie, Ryan Wylie; Colin Walshe (Capt.), Vinny Corey, Neil McAdam; Kieran Hughes, Karl O’Connell; Gavin Doogan, Shane Carey, Dessie Ward; Conor McCarthy, Jack McCarron, Conor McManus.
Subs: Conor Forde, Kieran Duffy, James Mealiff, Dessie Mone, Brian Greenan, Aaron Lynch, Dermot Malone, Owen Duffy, Ryan McAnespie, Thomas Kerr, Micheál Bannigan.
Fermanagh: Tom Treacy; Michael Jones, Che Cullen, Cian McManus; Aidan Breen, Ryan McCluskey, Conor P Murphy; Eoin Donnelly (Capt.), Lee Cullen; Barry Mulrone, Ryan Lyons, Paul McCusker; Kane Connor, Seán Quigley, Tomás Corrigan.
Ulster Minor Football Championship Preliminary Round
Monaghan v Fermanagh, Saturday, 5.00, Clones
The curtain-raiser sees Monaghan and Fermanagh’s minor footballers contest the opening game of the Ulster MFC.
Monaghan haven’t reached the final since ending their 68-year MFC famine in 2013, but they will hope to field a team backboned by Ulster Under-16 Buncrana Cup winners this year. Monaghan won their first two Ulster MFL games to secure qualification from Group A, before losing out to Derry at the Cup semi-final stage. Fermanagh beat eventual league winners Tyrone during a Group B campaign where they also drew with Donegal and ran beaten finalists Derry close, before falling to another narrow defeat in the shield semi-finals against Armagh.
Monaghan should be able to call on players who featured 12 months ago like Josh Walsh, Ryan Mohan, Robbie McAlister, Conor Doyle, Karl McMenamin and Seán Burns, while Lorcan McStravick, Dara McGurn, Eoin Beacom, Callum Jones, Cameron McBrien and Paul Breen could lead Fermanagh’s challenge.
This is the last running of the Minor Championship at U-18 ahead of it being replaced by an U-17 Championship.
Nicky Rackard Cup Semi-Final
Monaghan v Derry, Saturday, 5.00, Inniskeen
Monaghan contest their first Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final since 2013 when they take on Derry at Páirc Grattan on Saturday.
Having missed out on qualifying for the Allianz National Hurling League Division 3A Final despite a strong start that saw them win their first four games, Monaghan then lost their Rackard Cup opener by a point to Tyrone, but they knocked Donegal out at the quarter-final stage. Derry, who are in the Rackard Cup for the first time since they won it back in 2006, saw off Louth before cutting loose against Longford last time out. The Oak Leaf County competed in a higher division and the league and they were comprehensive winners against an understrength Monaghan side on their way to lifting the Ulster SHC Shield.
Ruairí Convery, Brendan Rogers, Alan Grant, Brian Cassidy and Gerald Bradley have all been in scoring form for Derry, who will also be hoping for big displays from Liam Óg and Kevin Hinphey. Monaghan could be hit hard by the absences of Dónal Meegan and Peter Treanor, increasing their reliance on the likes of Mark Treanor, Fergal Rafter, Brian McGuigan and Éanna Mac Suibhne.
Silver Hill Farm Minor Hurling League Final
Carrickmacross v Monaghan Harps, Sunday, 12pm, Castleblayney
Carrickmacross and Monaghan Harps contest the MHL Final in Castleblayney on Sunday.
Carrick topped the league after five straight wins, including a fourth-round game at home to the Harps, before cruising past Cootehill Celtic at the semi-final stage. The Harps finished second in the group and had too much for Castleblayney last Sunday. These sides shared the minor hurling silverware last year, with the Harps winning the league, before losing the championship final to Carrick after a replay.
Carrick will be looking for big performances from Patrick Bermingham, Oisín Wilcox, Oran Kiernan, Ciarán Guinan, Peter Clinton and Michael Maguire, while Aidan Burns, Dylan McAree, Niall Ward, Nathan O’Donoghue and Thomas Croarkin could lead the way for the Harps.
This weekend’s other club action centres on the Platinum Tanks Reserve Football Leagues. Division 1A leaders Donaghmoyne travel to Scotstown on Sunday, while Friday’s fixtures are Latton v Monaghan Harps and Truagh v Clontibret. Magheracloone will bid to remain unbeaten in Division 1B when they host Emyvale on Sunday, while Blackhill travel to Aughnamullen. Friday sees Castleblayney make the short trip to Cremartin.
The top two meet in Division 2A on Friday when Ballybay face Killanny, with Sunday seeing Tyholland and Doohamlet host Seán McDermotts and Drumhowan respectively. There is a full round in Division 2B on Sunday: Aghabog v Clones; Carrickmacross v Monaghan Harps; and Rockcorry v Éire Óg, as well as two games in Division Three; namely Oram v Clontibret and Truagh v Killeevan.
Inniskeen and Blackhill meet in the Monaghan Electrical Intermediate Football League on Tuesday evening, with both teams knowing a win would send them into the top four.
Round three of the Silver Hill Farm Senior Hurling League takes place on Thursday, with Inniskeen away to Craobh Rua and Carrickmacross facing Clontibret.
The Gerry’s Prepared Veg. juvenile football competitions continue throughout this week, with Silver Hill Farm juvenile hurling action on Monday evening.